In retrospect, pancreatic cancer reared its ugly head with subtle early signs
My father died more than 4 years ago from pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately, the first sign my father had of this cancer (he woke up with jaundice) was also the final stage of this dreadful disease. All cancers are terrible, but pancreatic cancer goes one step further. Its first noticeable symptoms are usually the final ones. In retrospect, I realize that my family and I received many clues that my father’s health was changing. Unfortunately, none of us noticed those signs in time.
One of the first signs of pancreatic cancer is abdominal pain, which often radiates to the back. My father did not have radiating back pain, but suffered from a dull aching pain. Since he had always had back problems that led to surgery years before, he dismissed it as nothing serious. He started sessions with a chiropractor, who tried to alleviate the constant pain.
Another symptom that was overlooked was her weight loss. He had always been a giant man and usually kept his weight at 240. He started to lose weight, but insisted that he was tired of his belly being his table and that he wanted to lose pounds. I think he really felt that what he was saying was true, but the underlying cause is what has convinced me that pancreatic cancer was rearing its ugly head very early.
In early 2003, my father began to be a picky eater. Nothing terribly quirky, but for a man who sat and enjoyed every hearty meal, suddenly some of his favorite foods just didn’t taste good to him. He would ask my mom to taste the bite, and even though she would tell him it was okay, he would insist that it tasted funny or was not well prepared.
In retrospect, the different taste of my dad’s food was a very important sign that his health was changing, but it certainly wasn’t the biggest clue we got and didn’t notice. My dad drank beer his whole life. He drank beer every day. I don’t want him to sound like a bum on the slopes, but he worked hard and he played hard. He enjoyed beer with his meals. He enjoyed the beer after mowing the lawn. He enjoyed his beer watching his football games. He was a beer-drinking guy.
Imagine to our amazement when he just stopped drinking it. He just no longer cared about the taste and drank water or diet cola with his meals. That still didn’t trigger a clue for us and masked the clue to lose weight. Since my father did not drink beer it was a fact that he was going to lose weight. Thus, we lost another valuable clue that my father’s health was changing. All of this was approximately 1 year prior to his diagnosis.
Another sign that we didn’t recognize was that my dad constantly ate peanuts. He couldn’t get enough of them. Shortly before his skin became jaundiced, his entire body itched. I have since learned that the itchiness was caused by the bile salt crystals that accumulated under her skin. The tumor was in the head of the pancreas and, unbeknownst to us, it was already blocking his bile duct. I don’t know where peanuts fit in other than their salt content. He might have been wishing for salt, as it was building up in his skin tissue instead of being distributed throughout his body, but that’s just a guess.
I am not in the medical field, but I have been obsessed with pancreatic cancer financing and trying to find early detection. Pancreatic cancer is a silent killer and the deadliest of all cancers. I hope that by writing this article you can make your readers aware of some very subtle changes in health that were obviously noticed in my dad’s case, but which we did not observe or process as important or in need of our immediate attention.