Paul Hargreaves was the founding chair of the Gut Cancer Foundation (GICI at the time) following a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in 2006. Sadly, Paul passed away in 2014 but not before he was one of just 8% of pancreatic cancer patients to beat his illness. Below is Paul’s story told in his own words during his time as a GCF board member:
“In May 2006 I was diagnosed with a cancer in the tail of the pancreas. A distal pancreatectomy was attempted together with splenectomy on 1 June 2006 by Professor John Windsor, Professor of Surgery at the University of Auckland Medical School, who found that the cancer was too advanced to carry this out successfully. I was given a terminal outlook.
My cancer was considered too extensive for radiotherapy and I was referred to Professor Michael Findlay, Professor of Oncology, who placed me on a chemotherapy treatment which was the result of a recent Italian clinical trial which had reported very good outcomes. It involved a 4 drug schedule using the drugs epirubicin, cisplatin, gemcitabine and capecitabine.
The treatments were planned to be in 3 cycles of 8 weeks administered 2 weekly with the exception of the capecitabine which was taken orally twice-daily every day. A CT scan was taken at the end of each cycle. In the event we completed 11 treatments by early December. The CT scans had showed up progressively very good results to the point where I was able to be presented back to the surgeon in December who agreed to operate, subject to another scan. This was done and showed ongoing response to the chemotherapy.
A distal pancreatectomy and splenectomy was undertaken on 22 February 2007 by Professor Windsor, entirely successfully this time, together with removal of a lymph node. The subsequent pathology was very encouraging, showing histologically that there was no cancer left in the pancreas.
I had idiopathic neutropenia which exposed my immune system but this was managed successfully during the chemo (4 days of injecting Neupogen after each fortnightly treatment.)
I felt well throughout and used acupuncture as an aid to counter the chemotherapy effects and transcendental meditation which I have practised for many years. My wife ensured that we were careful with diet.
Throughout this time I went about my normal business. I find that people have all sorts of different ways of coping with this. The support of my wife throughout was of huge importance. I even managed a visit to Antarctica and the South Pole in January 2007 as chairman of Antarctica New Zealand for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Scott Base, prior to the final surgery in the following month. At the time I was the only patient on whom this drug combination had been tried in New Zealand.”