Vikki McGuire

This story is part of the Guts UK Pancreatitis Awareness Campaign.

On November 2018 Guts UK launched a campaign to raise awareness of pancreatitis and funds for research. Please help us by sharing this story on Facebook and on Twitter tagging @GutsCharityUK.

Vikki McGuire’s story

In September last year I started to experience high levels of pain in my upper abdomen, spreading round my back. The pain felt all too familiar and I was convinced that somehow I had gallstones again, though I couldn’t understand what was going on given that nine years before they removed my gall bladder. I had to keep visiting the GP to try and get help: they kept putting me on various medications for IBS and stomach flu, none of which helped, some of which just made things worse.

Then after a three month battle with GPs, who wouldn’t help me when I was in extreme pain, on December 6th I ended up in A&E. Some of the Doctors I saw were very helpful, some of them however were very rude; I felt as if they were doing all they could to make my pain worse. However before they discharged me I got to see a different surgical Consultant who referred me to my current Consultant, who over the last nine months has done many tests and has now confirmed that I have chronic pancreatitis, which he says stemmed from having acute pancreatitis in 2008 when I had gallstones.

I think my experience of Kranky Panky would be a lot smoother if all GPs were more willing to help. Even after a diagnosis I find some GPs can still be a bit problematic in helping with things like pain relief. Because I also have a lot of mental health issues some GPs can be very quick to blame that. Pancreatitis is such a life changing disease: I can’t do anything I used to be able to do. I would go running 10 miles three times a week and in July 2017, right before this all began, I was able to climb Ben Nevis (that is the photo I wanted to share with you all) but right now these things seem so, so far out of my reach! We’d already done Snowdon in 2015 and we’d wanted to do the third peak in the Lake District but I just don’t see that will be possible now. More often than not I can’t even climb the stairs to the toilet without feeling incredibly weak and drained of all energy, let alone climb more mountains.

Friends, family, GPs, and other professionals who one might want to seek support from need to be aware of, and understand, how badly pancreatitis changes our lives. I think our lives would go more smoothly if we had that wealth of support. Let‘s face it, we all know there is no cure right now: all we can get is support and to be kept in some comfort. On the plus side, I have made lots of friends in Facebook Pancreatitis support groups. I might not ever get to meet them but I know we are all there for each other, we all understand what each other is going through, and that means a lot to me right now.

Also my Kranky Panky Consultant got me referred to a gynaecologist: I have been battling for years with suspected endometriosis. The GPs wouldn’t make the referral but my Consultant didn’t hesitate. I’m now due to have surgery at the end of November to try and fix that issue. So there is at least a little light at the end of the tunnel.

For my Kranky Panky I now have been put on tablets to help me digest food (Creon), I take codeine to help with pain though it doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination take my pain away, and I have to take omeprazole and antacids (acid reflux relief medications) when I need it. I will be on these medications for the rest of my life with no doubt more added as time goes on.

And I will keep fighting, and I will keep battling through, and I will keep the fight to raise awareness until people understand what we go through.

What can you do?

Fancy fundraising for Guts UK? Have a coffee morning or dinner party with our pancreatitis quiz for the Kranky Panky Weekend. Or maybe you can take our quiz and ‘Pin the Pancreas on the Person’ game into work with a collection tin?

More information

Find out about acute and chronic pancreatitis in our Conditions section and read tips and suggestions on how to manage chronic pancreatitis from those affected by this condition.

Vikki McGuire climbing Ben Nevis before her pancreatitis. Guts UK hope that one day she will be able to do it again.