Richard started to experience a pain in his back and orange stools. When he went to the doctors, no one mentioned to him that this could be because of his pancreas.
I’m Richard, I’m 49 years old and I’m a Bradford lad, born and bred. I don’t work now due to my health, but I was a qualified plumber. I’ve been married to my wife, Carla, for 28 years – we met in our late teens. I used to be a keen rock-climber, and enjoyed outdoors bushcraft, survival and camping.
When it comes to my health, I’d describe myself as a disaster quite honestly! I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1979, and over the years have really struggled with severe depression and social anxiety. Because of this, there was a period of my life where I drank heavily to help me sleep.
For years, I’d been experiencing a pain that I’d feel in my back. I remember years ago going to the doctors about this, and they thought it could be my kidneys. No one mentioned my pancreas.
Towards the end of 2021, I went to see my doctor because my stomach had really swollen. My stools were also orange, which I’d mentioned to my doctor, and they mentioned gallstones but not the pancreas. By this point, I’d completely stopped drinking, and I didn’t miss it at all. The pain I was experiencing was enough to stop me drinking forever. The doctor gave me some laxatives, believing I was constipated, but I said, “Look at the size of me! This can’t be right”.
Around Christmas in 2021, I went to my doctor again with an even more swollen abdomen. The doctor phoned up the hospital and wanted me to go straight to A&E. After a number of scans and tests, it turned out I had ascites (a build-up of fluid within the abdomen). They drained 17 litres of fluid from my abdomen, and they had to do this twice more. I was eventually given a medication to stop the fluid build-up.
After my third drain, I got an infection in the fluid. I was admitted to A&E and put on an antibiotic drip. No one was telling me anything though, I felt quite lost. I remember kicking off a little, and eventually one of the consultants sat me down. I was told that I needed to be kept in because the infection could be very dangerous. I was also told that I had liver cirrhosis (scarring caused by long-term liver damage), and chronic pancreatitis.
After finding out I had chronic pancreatitis, I did a lot of online research. Before I found Guts UK, I was becoming paranoid by what I’d read online. I’m so thankful I came across Kranky Panky, as if I’d left it up to the doctors, I’d have no knowledge. I finally managed to recognise that this pain I’d been experiencing was my pancreas. Most of the time, it’s a constant dull ache, but at times I can have attacks of sharp pain too.
I’ve been given painkillers and patches to manage my pain, but my doctor wouldn’t prescribe me more painkillers, I had to call my consultant who was more understanding and helpful. I find managing the pancreatitis and the diabetes most difficult, as if I’m struggling to eat with the pancreatitis, how do I keep my blood sugar levels up? Thankfully, I have had some help from a gastroenterology dietitian who helped advise me on the pancreatic enzymes.
Though I went through a period of losing a lot of weight, my weight has stabilised now. The muscle wastage is difficult for me, as I used to be quite a muscly lad, but my arms are like an old man’s. I’m mostly skin and bone, and after a recent fall, I use a walking staff to get around.
I’m waiting on an update after my latest scan, but one of the things that helps me through is my faith. I study Asatru, a Norse Pagan religion. It is all about asking for strength to help me help myself. It has given me the strength to carry on, continue fighting and change my attitude.
Though I can’t rock climb anymore, I do enjoy foraging for mushrooms. It’s fascinating, and it gets me outside in the fresh air. All it cost me was a couple of books and a pair of boots too!
I’m a stubborn Yorkshireman. I don’t like stuff beating me. You can’t give up, you’ve got to keep trying. I feel it’s important to share my story, like many others do. I for one will be buying myself a Guts UK t-shirt and raising awareness as much as I can. Who knows, maybe a pancreas tattoo is on the cards too!
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.