A 21-year-old woman shares her experience with chronic, incurable pancreatitis

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Eireann O’Toole was diagnosed with pancreatitis and faces uncontrollable pain which leaves her in tears and unable to walk

A young woman shares her story about living with an incurable illness.

Eireann O’Toole, 21, was diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis in March and faces uncontrollable pain which can leave her in floods of tears and unable to walk.

When she was a young girl, her first symptoms were constant stomach cramps and vomiting. She had to miss school for several weeks.

The charity Guts UKChronic pancreatitis, which is a chronic inflammation of the pancreas that can cause severe pain, is also known as chronic pancreatitis.

It is estimated that between 6,000 and 12,000 new cases of the disease are diagnosed each year in the UK.

This condition doesn’t heal and can get worse over time.

Leitrim, Belfast pharmacy sales advisor said BelfastLiveThis is: “From consultant to consultant, they couldn’t understand what was wrong with me until they finally came to the conclusion it was a stomach migraine, which I later found out wasn’t the right diagnosis.

“As I grew up and my years passed, my pains became more frequent, becoming more frequent, and with no warning as to when they would return.

“These pains consisted of stomach pains which felt like someone was stabbing me – they would radiate into my back and shoulder until I physically couldn’t stand or walk anymore. The uncontrollable pain would leave me in bed, in tears and in bed.

“It progressively got worse and in January 2021, I ended up in A&E hooked up to machines trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I was sent home as they could only see ‘a fit and healthy young girl’ when deep down I was in constant pain.

“After many A&E visits, hospital stays, MRIs, CT scans and endless blood tests, in March 2021 after suffering for many years, I was finally diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis along with gallstones in my pancreas duct and a cyst on my pancreas.”

Eireann was off work for eight weeks after her diagnosis as she was unable to handle the pain it was causing.

She also explained the effect it has had on her social life in her early 20s.

“I was losing weight, and within a matter of a month I lost almost a stone. I was trying to control it but couldn’t, ending up in hospital every week trying to figure out what this condition meant to me and how I could try to help it.

“Never at 21-years-old did I think I was going to be told that I have an incurable condition and that I wasn’t allowed to drink alcohol ever again. As you can imagine it affected me not only physically but mentally.

“I couldn’t go out anymore with the fear I was ready to take another attack and I struggled to think about a social life. My friends were out with their friends, but I was sick. It was a hard hit.

“It was a constant battle to think positive but I knew if I didn’t, I was just making myself worse. I knew that there were many other people like me and some people’s stories could help me on my path.”

She now wants to raise awareness for chronic pancreatitis and fundraise for others.

Eireann shared how the experience had changed her life, and thanked her loved ones for their support during such difficult times.

She stated, “Over these past few months, I have been able to control and manage my condition better.

“I’ve a very limited diet to try not to take a flare up. I’m taking endless tablets which I will be taking everyday for the rest of my life.

“I try to be positive about my condition in the hope that it will make other people talk out and get checked. The quicker you can find it, the more you can control it and make things easier.

“My next step forward is to research my condition more and find out what is best for me. This is why myself and my family have started a fundraiser this month to help raise more money for Guts UK – to help research conditions like chronic pancreatitis. We have so far have raised just over £1,500.

“One day, they might have a cure for me. With more research, more people will be able to live with this condition.