While on a camping trip in the summer of 2018, John Nyholt experienced some minor indigestion. He thought nothing of it until jaundice set in and began rapidly increasing the following day.
An ultrasound revealed a growth on his pancreas, and immediately, John’s brain went to very dark places – cancer and pancreas are not a good combination. He spent a restless night in the hospital awaiting further tests and fearing he wouldn’t survive to see Christmas that year. The roller coaster of emotions continued the following day when additional tests confirmed his cancer was caught early and should be ‘curable.’
But not without undergoing extensive and complex surgery called the ‘Whipple”, followed by six months of aggressive chemotherapy.
“It was tough to get through,” says John. “But over the six months, I had more good days than bad. My subsequent scans were all good, and reading through the radiologist’s reports, I discovered it was wonderful to be considered ‘unremarkable.’”
During his treatment, John attended programs at Wellspring Birmingham Gilgan House. The meditation classes helped to calm his anxieties. The exercise program helped him regain lost muscle mass. In addition, John recalls that the Men’s Group was “always affirming,” as it provided him space to be candid with others experiencing similar issues.
Around that time, Wellspring began a partnership with Pancreatic Cancer Canada to establish a Peer Support program for people living with or caring for a loved one with pancreatic cancer. John immediately applied to be part of the program and underwent intense training before being able to support others.
“So much is unknown when you are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. You’re in absolute fear and don’t know where to turn or what is coming next. On reflection, it would have been huge for me to have had someone to talk with during that time. So, I became a Pancreatic Cancer Peer Support Volunteer for Wellspring and, for the past three and a half years, I have been helping reduce anxiety, answer questions, and show others with pancreatic cancer that there can also be a positive side. I can provide much needed hope by sharing my story of not just surviving but thriving!” “I’m so incredibly grateful for how things have turned out for me, and for all the support I’ve received from Wellspring. Helping others through such a challenging time is how I show my gratitude.”