Maggie Antell

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

My name is Maggie and my story started in December 2018. At the age of 20 I was no big drinker, played hockey on the weekends, was at college doing an access course and was seemingly healthy. I had goals and dreams and they were within reach.

It was a week before I broke up for the Christmas holidays and I began to get an aching pain in my chest, it seemed a little weird, but I just figured it would go away on its own. Over the space of a week the pain had got much, much worse. Initially doctors thought my pain was due to acid reflux and after taking some medication it would settle, but this was not the case. I found at first, my doctors dismissed my pain. I stated my pain was a 7 and was told that a 7 is what people having heart attacks say. Young people and children can be in pain too and it is so misunderstood.

After a couple of doctors’ visits and an ambulance being called I finally had more tests conducted by my GP. I was then asked to get some blood tests done. The day after the blood tests were conducted I received a voicemail from 111 saying I needed to call them immediately. After speaking to one of their doctors I was told I needed to see an out of hours GP because my test results indicated pancreatitis (amylase was high 800s). I had never heard of pancreatitis and was a little unsure of what would happen.

Three days until Christmas and I was stuck in hospital, attached to fluids, unable to eat and only able to have visitors from 2 until 8. I felt absolutely fine at this point and was so cheerful. I just wanted to go home. I know I was 20 and that makes me an adult, but I wanted to see my family and I wanted them to stay with me. I was scared and alone and stuck in a hospital. I left the hospital on Christmas eve, after spending two days there. I was informed I could not drink alcohol or eat fatty foods for the next two weeks. I had no idea why this happened, and I was a little scared. Sticking to a low-fat diet was hard, I stuck to it mostly but after a while it fizzled out. I found it didn’t improve my pain so why prevent myself from foods I loved and craved. Since then I have been having daily pain and I’m yet to find a way for it to be controlled. 10 months on and a normal MRI scan later. I started University which mostly revolves around drinking. I had my 21st birthday where I couldn’t celebrate like my friends could and I know no-one in the same situation as me.

I find it hard not knowing what is wrong with me and having daily pain. Pain is sometimes exhausting and trying to keep up with a fast-paced life of a 21-year-old at university is hard. Hospitals aren’t easy places to go to and after failed experimentations with medications and many blood tests, I am beginning to accept that this is forever. I am positive about my situation and I want to help others. I am learning to live with my illness. Although I was only diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, I wasn’t informed about the implications of this illness long-term and that the pancreas doesn’t heal. Although after 10 months I still feel knocked down by acute pancreatitis, I am not yet defeated. I would encourage anyone my age or suffering with pancreatitis at a young age to still live your life whilst you can. I hope that the near future entails a reason why I got this illness or a diagnosis that can be managed or even just finding a way to manage this successfully.

I hope in the near future there is more understanding about pancreatitis both acute and chronic and I wish for more information and awareness medically to be available. I like to research and know what I am up against, but research and information is limited. I also find sobriety is misunderstood by many and so is the diet! I am still figuring it out like many others and I hope that the awareness this illness desperately needs, enhances understanding and helps the thousands of people suffering with pancreatitis.


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