I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at 26 – these were my first symptoms

This Morning: Dr Zoe explains symptoms of pancreatic cancer

Manny Garcia, 26, was on a business trip in Germany with his father when he started experiencing sudden, sharp pains in his abdomen. 

He told Express.co.uk: “It started with a searing pain in my liver that would come and go but initially, I interpreted it as stomach pain.”

Other symptoms like nausea and vomiting followed, but he initially put them down to the travel.

When he returned home to Miami, Florida, his symptoms kept worsening, prompting him to seek treatment at a local urgent care. 

After reviewing his case, the doctors instructed him to take a laxative and sent him home. 

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But his health started deteriorating rapidly, and Manny, who is a musician, skydiving coach and sales rep for high-end plumbing and hardware manufacturers, had to start eliminating certain foods from his diet “week after week”.

He said: “I was losing a lot of weight as my abdomen was slowly starting to bulge and become distended. The liver pains were becoming more painful and happening more frequently.”

The worsening symptoms prompted the 26-year-old to go straight to a gastroenterologist, who suspected Manny was suffering from gastritis.

The doctor scheduled a follow-up for six-to-eight weeks later and sent Manny on his way.

But Manny kept feeling worse and worse so he rang his gastroenterologist, explaining he couldn’t wait that long.

Endoscopy, ultrasound, computerised tomography scan and biopsy later, the 26-year-old was given a diagnosis he never expected.

It was Easter Sunday, when he received the gloomy news that he had a rare type of stage four pancreatic cancer. At this point, Manny had tumours in his pancreas, liver, spine and brain.

Despite the difficult prognosis, he initially felt relieved. “My first thought when I received my diagnosis was relief because I finally knew what the problem was and that we could get to work to correct it,” he said.

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Manny was then started on chemotherapy which made an “immediate” difference, allowing him to eat more within days than he could in months.

He also took part in an experimental immunotherapy treatment involving two drugs OPDIVO and YERVOY, which are used in combination to treat certain forms of cancer.

As the year 2019 was coming to a close, Manny received a call from his doctor that his scan came back “clean” with no signs of disease. 

He said: “I was extremely confident that I was going to get better and was happy that I had gotten better so quickly.”

Later, the 26-year-old received the all-clear. “Chemotherapy is what immediately saved my life, and immunotherapy is what brought me to full remission,” Manny added.

He is now 30 and plans to follow his dreams of skydiving and BASE jumping, which he’s actively doing.

Manny encouraged other people battling cancer to find a support group so they can share their story and learn from others. 

“It is typically difficult to find other survivors but I found my group within Seena Magowitz and continue to stay active to serve as an ambassador that you can in fact beat this and survive 5, 10 and even 20 years,” he added.

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