Paul Taylor was a fit and healthy 36-year-old and for 20 years had led an active outdoor life as a countryside ranger and a tree surgeon, so it was a complete shock when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in June 2018.
‘In my work I specialised in using the countryside to better people’s health and well-being, something I have always been passionate about,’ said Paul. ‘As a qualified Nordic-walking instructor, I did that several times a week, both during work and in my own time, as well as going to the gym up to five times a week. I was also rebuilding a 350-year-old stone cottage ’.
Paul and his partner Charlotte had been together for 18 years and had been planning their wedding for August 2018 when he became jaundiced in May. ‘It started with me feeling slightly sick but nothing that I would worry about. Then I started to lose my appetite and after a short time I noticed that there was slight yellowing of the eyes. This escalated until I had complete yellowing of the skin and wasn’t eating or drinking anything. In the toilet my stools were pale, floated and seemed greasy. My GP made an emergency hospital appointment, but before I could attend, I collapsed and was rushed to A&E in an ambulance.’
Although Paul was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he and Charlotte went ahead and had a lovely August wedding. Paul began his treatment straight after their honeymoon.
Paul’s family were just recovering from the early death of his sister’s husband from prostate cancer and Paul’s diagnosis reopened these wounds and had a devastating effect, especially on Paul’s parents. It brought them closer together, however, Paul’s father passed away in May 2019. Paul’s mother has lived with leukemia for many years, controlled with oral medication. She, his brother and nephew all have type 1 diabetes.
‘The doctors at my local hospitals seemed to have given up on me, but Charlotte is an amazing woman and found out about the Precision-Panc trials. We asked to go on a trial and knew we were in the right place when we met the team’.
‘I received no chemotherapy before starting the trial. I had a stent fitted to my bile duct and had the port fitted for my fortnightly treatment that began in September 2018. This involves a long day at the Christie hospital in Manchester. I normally arrive at 8am for blood tests and to talk to the doctors about my side effects and any issues I might have’.
‘After a couple of hours, I make my way to the chemotherapy unit where I have infusions of Abraxane and Oxaliplatin, which take around 4-5 hours to infuse. After this I am fitted with a chemotherapy pump containing Fluorocilin that I take home and it slowly infuses over 46-hours, after which my local district nurses remove the pump. The whole process is painless and the team around me is very helpful’.
‘The process has been tough, but everyone has been honest with me and listened to my wishes. There are things no one can prepare you for with cancer treatment, so I expected ‘surprises’ around how hard it would be at times and what side effects I would get. Of course, I don’t want to have pancreatic cancer but, apart from this, I wouldn’t change the way things are going in this trial. I’m currently feeling fine and in a happy place mentally’.
‘Short term side effects can last for a week to 10 days and include feeling sick, more severe tiredness, aching, loss of appetite, loss of taste around drink and food. Longer term symptoms are mainly the tingling and numbness in my hands and feet’.
‘I’ve learned that it’s important to take breaks from the treatment to recharge the batteries. A break allows my taste to return, energy levels recover slightly and level out. It also helps with my mental health and mood. I arrange short breaks away during these times to maximise the enjoyment’.
‘I hope the trial shows the genetic links that can point to better treatments and even prevention. Anything that can help other people diagnosed with this condition is a good thing. I want the suffering of pancreatic cancer to become a thing of the past.’