Lynne’s Story

 

Walking the Journey Together

Early detection of pancreatic cancer is rare as symptoms most often appear after the cancer has spread. Lynne Stickells was one of those rare cases however and she believes that this was more than just luck as she explains “When my symptoms, some digestive problems and unexplained bruising, did appear I thought they were related to an existing heart condition so called my doctor thinking my medication would need to be changed. He advised me to go straight to the hospital. Soon after I was admitted to University Hospital Galway where very quickly I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. However the oncologist did say there was some very positive news as he had never seen a tumour like this so small, given they usually go undetected. I felt as if God was on my side, looking after me.”

Lynne’s treatment plan was to start with chemotherapy and then to follow with surgery. The plan got off to a bad start. Lynne contracted an infection following each of her first two chemo sessions, which resulted in several weeks in hospital. She recalls the oncologist visiting her as she recovered from her second one. “He told me that they could not continue the chemo and to me this set off alarm bells as I knew the chemo was required to shrink the tumour enough to make the surgery viable. Imagine my relief when his face lit up with a smile as he told me that the first two chemos had worked though and now the tumour was operable. No more chemo, I just had to get well enough to have the surgery.”

The lengthy operation known as The Whipple Procedure, was successful and Lynne was soon on the road to recovery. “It’s a slow road and a long one but day by day I am getting stronger.” Lynne has remained remarkably positive throughout her cancer journey. “Yes I was concerned but I don’t dwell on fear. If you let it take over you will lose the battle. So I was firm with my family and friends. I only wanted joy, laughter and positivity in my life as I embarked on my cancer journey and they were amazing. I don’t wish my journey on anyone but it’s true to say that I have gained so much from my experience. Especially as a wonderful depth has blossomed in my relationships that gives me so much pleasure, strength and comfort.”

From the beginning Lynne’s two daughters, Janine and Taryn, have been her rock, walking alongside her step by step. They have looked on with horror and admiration as she has faced up to and gotten through so much. Lynne thinks the worst day was “the day my son-in-law gave me a number 3 buzz cut. Once it was done however the worst was over and already I could start looking forward to it growing back. We got through it all together and it’s made us even closer, we are a strong team and we know now we can face anything.”

Another member of Lynne’s team, walking beside her on her journey almost from day one, is Cancer Care West, who Lynne’s daughters contacted. “From the beginning they have supported my psychological needs through therapy while also helping me deal with the physical side of my illness. It was not just their expertise we valued it was also the care with which they provided it. They have gone over and above for me and my daughters and I think they are amazing.”

Lynne is in a good place now, looking to the future and determined that her dream of writing a book some day will happen. As a South African living in Ireland she plans to learn a lot more about her adopted country which “is perfect except for the rain!”. The last words from Lynne on her cancer journey are for those who may be embarking on their own. “Do not let fear take over, otherwise you will look for things that aren’t there. Talk to the professionals, tell them how you feel and follow their advice, they do incredible work. Look for joy and positivity in everything because even in the darkest moments it’s there.”

 

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