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Living with pancreatic cancer

by: Jason Boas - Last updated: 2008-10-07

Jason Boas

Jason Boas

Jason Boas tells his story of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the side effects of treatment and setting up a cancer support group for young adults.

On October 9 2007 I had to inform my parents that I had 18 months to live. I will never forget watching my father freeze with fear, nor my words hitting my mother so hard, one at a time, causing her to collapse on the floor in a pile of tears and muffled screams. Our lives had changed.

I was told two hours earlier by a surgeon, that the reason why I collapsed nine days earlier with a bout of pancreatitis, was due to the fact that I had 5cm Tumour growing in my pancreas and it was locally advanced, encapsulating my portal vein, meaning I was inoperable. The doctors informed me that an aggressive form of chemotherapy would be the treatment given and this would only have a 10% chance of successfully shrinking the tumour off the vein. There was then a 10% chance of radiotherapy being successful so the operation would be more simple.  The chances of the operation being a success was then 50%

I had a long journey ahead of me. We went for a second opinion, and saw Professor Cunningham at the Royal Marsden Hospital. I was entered into a phase 1 drug trial, where nobody was really sure if it will work. The trial meant I take chemotherapy orally for 21 consecutive days, and have an intravenous drip of chemotherapy administered to me every week for three weeks. At the same time I take tablets every day, and a further drip taken twice in the three week period, to help find tumour cells and if you like place heat seekers on them.

As a result I have had side effects, both physically and emotionally. Physically stomach pain is a daily occurrence. Hair loss, the colour of my skin changing, the feeling at the end of my fingers disappearing, mouth sores, and a rash on my face that looks like I have extremely bad acne.

Mentally, I have changed. Your life is on hold, I can not do a full day’s work due to the effects of chemo. So my career which was building nicely is at a halt. Dating is impossible, as I can not think of anything but my cancer, and side effects prevent me from doing what normal couples would do. Guilt is always in my mind, guilt that I am putting my poor family and friends through hell. I don’t sleep much, it’s hard when you “dream” of your own funeral every night.

And who knew what I was going through? Nobody. You see when you have cancer in your 30’s you are treated as an adult. The same adult who is 75 and has lived their life, and has cancer. The same adult who would not be strong enough physically to take the effects of chemo. The same adult who makes up the majority of cases to give rise to such poor statistics. Theses statistics don’t relate to me, but I had to find that out myself. I couldn’t talk to my “fellow patients” about how bored I am, and how scared I am for me and my parents, as they have not experienced these fears. I had nobody to ask how they cope that they know look hideous both in the inside and out. It is a lonely place having cancer at 33.

I decided to set up a video blog (www.youtube.com/theboasblog) to help provide 30 or so friends with an update on how I was doing. I am amazed that on average 1500 people tune in on a weekly basis. But through this blog, I began finding other patients like me, in Israel, Texas, Missouri, and even in Elstree.  These people became my support group, and talking to them, they too felt lonely and found that speaking to one anther was a great relief. We were not alone.

I have therefore decided to set up the No Surrender Charitable Trust – which aims to bring support to young adults, and give them an arena to discuss their hopes and fears with one another. I believe beating cancer you need a positive approach, and having a community on the internet, where we can all talk at any time would provide such an approach.

To find out more about the No Surrender Charitable Trust contact:

JasonBoas@harrisandtrotter.co.uk

For more information on Pancreatic Cancer:

www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk

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