Vishal began to experience a painful stomach ache that painkillers couldn't help. After taking himself to A&E he was diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis.
“Hi, my name is Vishal and I’m 42 years old. I’m from Leicester, I’m Hindu and I work as a pharmacist. This can be busy and stressful at times, but I do like my job. I have a great group around me of supportive friends and family.
When I was diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis, I had been working away from home a lot, so I was therefore quite stressed and not sleeping very well. I began experiencing a very painful stomach ache, but painkillers didn’t work. I tried taking antacids too, but they didn’t make a difference. As I was curled up in pain, I knew something wasn’t right.
Luckily the following day was my day off work, so despite being away from home, I decided to take myself to A&E. My blood tests showed that I had a urine infection and that my enzyme levels were raised. They booked me in for a CT scan the following day, where they found I had chronic pancreatitis. This was a huge shock. I remember having to wait a few months until my consultation with the specialist, which was hard because I was still in pain when I’d eat.
The consultant sat me down and told me I must’ve had chronic pancreatitis for years. I had thought the cramping feeling I’d get after eating was a food intolerance, like lactose intolerance or gluten. My pancreas never crossed my mind. They explained that I would need to take prescription digestive enzymes with food and drink, and that’s where learning all about my pancreas and chronic pancreatitis began.
I have since made some huge changes to my lifestyle. I exercise a lot more and I’ve improved my work-life balance. I also care more about what I put inside of my body and I don’t drink alcohol. It’s really important to listen to your body, and not forget your mind and mental health in all of this too.
There were various stages to my chronic pancreatitis journey. Early on I felt completely out of control and panicked. Then I remember feeling sad, as though I was going to miss out on everything, like going to the pub with my friends or for a meal. Then I realised that with my enzymes and my lifestyle changes, I’m in less pain and it’s worth it.
There are ways of having the same interactions and connections with your friends and family. I’m more likely to go for a walk, hike or camp with friends now – I love being out in nature. I’ve managed to find different ways to have the same fun as I did before, whilst being conscious of my decisions.
Personally, it’s important to me that I don’t feel too ‘different’, or to label myself too much. Some of my friends don’t even know I have chronic pancreatitis until they ask why I’m taking capsules (enzymes) with my meal. I do want people to be aware of my condition, but I also want to continue with life as normal. I’ll also need friends to understand that I’m not being rude if I turn down an invitation sometimes; it’s just what’s best for me and my health.
I’ve found charities like Guts UK really helpful in learning about chronic pancreatitis and learning from the experiences of other people too. I really believe knowledge is power – sharing knowledge and bringing awareness to a little-known subject, which is why campaigns like Kranky Panky are so important.“
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.