Over Christmas 2022, Caroline wondered if she'd overdone it on food. New Years Eve arrived and her pancreatitis symptoms became much worse.
Tell us about you
“I’m Caroline, I’m 48 and I live on the north coast of Scotland. I’ve lived here now for 15 years with my husband Mick. We’re joined by a small flock of sheep, horses, and two dogs. I’m a pensions administrator and I’m currently doing a degree in data science. In my spare time, I love reading anything and everything and enjoy looking after our horses.”
When did your symptoms start?
“I first thought I was experiencing the perimenopause after doing some research into my symptoms. However, I became more worried when I started gaining weight. I hadn’t changed anything in my diet, and I was bloating badly. I had pains and aches and whilst we were on holiday in November 2022, I just didn’t feel right. Over Christmas, I wondered if I’d overdone it on food. I called the doctor and asked if I could discuss hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and they booked me in for 10th January 2023.“
Talk us through your journey to diagnosis
“New Years Eve arrived, and my symptoms really stepped up. I had severe stomach and back pains, and I was being sick. I hadn’t been sick in 31 years, so I knew something was amiss. I rang the doctor and twenty minutes later, I was at the GP surgery. My doctor felt my stomach and I doubled over in agony and was sick in the sink! I was given some anti-spasmodic treatment and anti-sickness. It didn’t help.
Mick took me to hospital. They gave me morphine, but it wasn’t touching the pain. It was decided I’d be staying overnight so Mick went home. The next day, I woke up in the high dependency unit (HDU) and Mick arrived with a rucksack. “What are you doing here?” I asked him, and he explained an ambulance was going to take me to another hospital, 100 miles away.
I arrived and had numerous tests. A doctor popped her head around the bed curtain and explained that there was “too much fat” in my blood, so they couldn’t test it. I had also started experiencing problems with my breathing from the fluid around my pancreas. A scan revealed everything was inflamed. If I’m honest, I don’t remember a lot from the four days I spent in HDU. I later learnt that they were monitoring me the whole time due to worries with my heart. I don’t remember them telling me I had acute pancreatitis, I just remember doing what we’re told not to do and Googling it from my hospital bed! Soon after being sent up to a ward, I awoke feeling much more clear-headed and like myself. I sat up in bed and my consultant, surprised, said “you look better.”
Whilst I was in hospital, the staff were absolutely brilliant with me. To this day, we still don’t know what caused the pancreatitis. Doctors told me the fat in my blood (high triglycerides) was caused by the pancreatitis itself, not the other way round. “
Had you ever heard of pancreatitis before being diagnosed?
“I knew about pancreatic cancer as we sadly lost a friend to it but I’d never heard of acute pancreatitis.”
How are you doing now?
“I’m absolutely fine. When they discharged me, I was still on a mass of medication and gradually, I’ve been coming off this. I’m still on two medications, but we’re aiming to get me off those too. Before being diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, I’d never had a major illness. It took so much out of me, and I didn’t realise just how long it would take me to get back to my normal daily activities.
I didn’t realise how ill I had been until the day I left. A nurse explained to me that for the first two days in hospital, they didn’t know whether I would live or not. My mum and brother had been looking at booking flights to say their goodbyes.
I’d love for research to find a way to get the pain under control. Morphine itself didn’t touch the sides, for me. It’s mind-blowing that with medical science we don’t have more ways to control pain.”
Why did you want to share your story today?
“When I was in hospital, reading Guts UK’s Kranky Panky stories helped me so much. It helped me to see stories where people had experienced acute pancreatitis and gone back to living a normal life. You can very much get your life back again. It just takes a little bit of time and patience.“
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.