I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in


I need to preface this story with a few details about my digestive system. I know, best opening line ever!

Nobody knows or cares why or how, but in my late twenties I developed a reaction to foods high in histamines. Perhaps it’s a physical manifestation of my need to be the centre of attention, perhaps I am the original ‘delicate flower’, or maybe I’m just unlucky.

Saying you have a histamine intolerance does sound a bit madey-uppy, like you read it on the back of a magazine and it explained why you couldn’t face your second dessert at your cousin’s wedding. Well, it is a thing, and it’s nasty!

If you want to see the effects of it, force feed me avocado and sauerkraut (btw, if you happen to know a recipe that involves both of those things you’re a sick puppy). I’ll be ok for a few hours then the pain and sickness come. The pain tends to last the guts of the night (no pun intended) and then usually the next day I’m back to normal.

‘Suck it up!’ you scream ‘I don’t like blueberries but I don’t write a blog post about it’

I hear ya, the histamine intolerance just sets the scene...

On my birthday in Feb 2013 we went skiing in Whistler. To celebrate said birthday we went out to a fancy schmancy restaurant. I got all caught up the the hysteria of schmancy-ness and birthday girl bravado, so I ordered truffles. Not the chocolate variety, the mushroom kind. Nobody told me truffles are a histamine hella party, I barely got through the entree before I pulled Dom away from his black and blue steak and into the night we fled, me crouched over in agony.

However, unlike other histamine nightmares, the pain didn’t go away the next morning. In fact it continued for weeks so I finally showed up at my GPs door. My GP is a Chinese American lady that shoots straight from the hip. After examining me she said ‘If this was anyone else I’d sent them away, but we have to worry about you cos you’re not normal’. Personally I prefer the word ‘unique’, but hey ho.

A CT scan and biopsy later they found a pre cancerous tumour in my pancreas. They’ve chalked it up to bad luck. I remember the call from the doctor, he said alongside the scan my bloods revealed my cancer marker was high, it should be below 50 to be safe, mine was over 400. As always I never like my cancer to get in the way of some good plans so I suggest the operation could happen after the Summer maybe, there was silence on the phone, the doctor informed me that if I didn't have the operation now I would be dead by Christmas. The Summer plans were scrapped. My Summer plans were not vacation plans, they were to be my 6th and last attempt at IVF, chemo had comprised my fertility leaving me with a 1% chance to have a child.

I am now two weeks over the operation where they took out most of my pancreas (approx 70% if anyone is taking notes) and all of my spleen (it’s attached to your pancreas, couldn’t leave it hanging!). The surgery is curative and they said they got clear margins. For those of you still scribbling down notes the doctor said, on more than one occasion, that he thought my nearby liver was “beautiful”. Just sayin, I’m not going to enter it into a pageant, just good to know I got beauty within ;o)

The operation... well I’m not gonna lie, I felt and looked like i’d been shot. Due to some minor complications they kept me in Intensive Care, which is a trip. Literally, you trip off your head on the meds and somebody is constantly prodding you or poking you or fiddling with all the machines you’re hooked up to. I had a central line coming out of the jugular vein in my neck, I had the blood that was internally hemorrhaging collecting in a drain that came out of my stomach, they had trouble finding veins so my arms were black and blue. In the midst of all this in walks a lady with a harp!

I’m not kidding, for a split second I thought I had died and this was Heaven. When she kicked back her harp to play and I saw ‘made in china’ I thought ‘Wow, even God had to sell his debt’.
I sat through one round of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and when she offered to go again I suggested something classical. I actually like the idea of harp music (ya know, when I’m not running around checking my pot of gold at the end of rainbows) and it was a welcome distraction from the pain. The nurse wasn’t so sure though, when she caught sight of old harpo she gave her the heave-ho.

I’m doing well now (unfortunately diet and pain are still big issues, but they’ll settle down I imagine/hope!) and once again I tell my story because I never think these things will happen to me but alas they keep a comin’ so don’t ignore strange pains. Pancreatic cancer has a high morbidity rate because it is usually diagnosed too late (remember Steve Jobs!). I caught mine in time, be smart, if you don’t feel right, it’s your body trying to tell you something.

I want to take a sec to thank all my friends (old and new) and family especially my AWESOME husband Dom for supporting me through this little episode. Flowers, cards, calls, mails, texts, gifts, visitors, none of this is lost on me, I really appreciate kindness and I always try and pay it forward.

Oh, I nearly forgot, the biggest thanks of all must go to those truffles, the doc said it was all coincidental and that my tumour had probably been growing for years and had just reached a size that was now causing pain, nothing to do with a histamine reaction, blah, blah. I don’t buy it, I think my histamine reaction pushed it over the edge. I'll never look at a mushroom the same way again!

Mind yourselves...

(oh about that IVF, I finally got to do it 6 weeks after the op, despite warnings from docs that it was too soon. The result was my beautiful daughter Roisin who is the light of my life, she's the real 1%, miracles happen, don't ever ever let anyone take away your hope or dreams, sometimes that's all we've got)


  1. Excellent blog Sheils :-) Definitely the best opening line ever!!

  2. You have a very unique skill to make me laugh in the midst of such a crazy emotional story. I want to meet this magical harp lady! You amaze and inspire me with your positive attitude!!!!!

  3. Sheils, I've warned you before - stop hatin' on avocados! Seriously though, we're so glad that the op was a success and you're on the road to recovery.

  4. Hi Sheils, holy moly guacamole batman but that's a tough time. You're so great for getting through it. Glad to hear op was a success, scary and all as it must have been, eimear


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