Jack experienced his first attack of pancreatitis at 18 years old. Now 27, he's sharing his Kranky Panky story.
I’m Jack, I’m 27 years old from Glasgow. I love all things football and grew up as a Partick Thistle fan, rarely missing a game. I work as a journalist and have just moved from London back to Scotland to work.
Not long after my 18th birthday, I experienced pancreatitis for the first time. I had been at my friends’ house where we’d made a Chinese ‘fake-away’ and played video games. I got home, went to sleep as normal but woke first thing in the morning in absolute agony. I went downstairs to tell my mum and dad. I’ve never been much of a morning person, so they were surprised to see me awake at this hour, and told me to go back to bed to try and sleep it off.
At 2pm my dad asked if I’m ready to set off to go to the football, but despite never missing a game, I told him that I feel too unwell to go. The evening came and went. At 1am my dad decided he couldn’t leave me like this any longer, and took me to our local hospital.
When I arrived, the hospital immediately transferred me to a much larger hospital as they felt that would be better suited for me. The pain was incredibly intense, so the strong painkillers were a welcome relief. The doctor told my dad and I that I have pancreatitis and explained that my amylase level in my blood was around 30 times over normal levels.
We never found out the cause of my first pancreatitis attack, which I found hard to accept at first. There’s no family history of pancreatitis and they found no gallstones. I was searching for an answer, because I felt like if I was given a reason, I could accept it. But sometimes in life you don’t always get a ‘why’. The hospital staff explored every single avenue. The level of care I’ve received has always been exceptional.
For the next couple of years, I’d have an attack of pancreatitis every six months or so, almost religiously. I’d spent two weeks in hospital, and then I’d be fine for another six months, until I had another bad attack. Luckily, I have family and friends surrounding me who’d visit me in hospital at every opportunity, even my granny in her 80s made the daily trips!
After a number of these attacks, I was told my pancreatitis had become chronic (life-long). Admitting and understanding that this is an uncurable condition was tough. But honestly, once I came to terms with this and truly accepted it, I felt better both physically and mentally.
I’m a very strong-minded person. Don’t get me wrong, there have been dark times in my pancreatitis journey, but I never said, “Why me?” At some point in life, everyone has had something bad happen to them, some more than others. Bad things happen to people every day, but I won’t feel sorry for myself.
Before I met Bethanay, my partner of almost four years and now fiancé, I’d date women and would find when I told them I don’t drink due to pancreatitis, they’d become uninterested. I was always left shocked, but everything happens for a reason and this led me straight to Bethanay. Bethanay has been a great part of my journey, as since I met her I haven’t had any hospital visits and have been basically pancreatitis free.
I’ve stayed out of hospital for almost four years now. Most of the time I’m absolutely fine, to the point where I’d forget I have pancreatitis! There are occasional days where I experience the unmistakeable pancreas pains, my stomach will swell and become hard. This tends to last very intensely for an hour or so, and then passes.
If I was to give one message, it’d be to keep yourself in a good mental place as much as you can. I feel it’s so key to managing this condition, and don’t push people away too. If you feel as though you’re at your worst point, that means that things can only get better from here.
Soon, it’ll be 10 years since my first pancreatitis attack. If I’m honest, sharing my story today isn’t a very ‘me’ thing to do. I’m doing this so Guts UK can reach more people, fund more research, information and awareness for this underfunded condition. I do this in the hope that this research may go on to help me too, one day.
There is no effective treatment for pancreatitis. There is no cure.
Guts UK is dedicated to finding an effective treatment, a cure for this misunderstood and underfunded condition. We are building a community affected by pancreatitis, comforted in knowing they’re not alone.