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Wearing Purple for Pancreatic Cancer

23rd November 2018

It is pancreatic cancer awareness month. To support the campaign, we have been sharing information with staff during the month with one member of staff sharing her own personal experience of this silent killer. 

As we wear purple today, we think of everyone who has been and is affected by this condition; and encourage everyone to do what they can to help fund research that will save lives by supporting Pancreatic Cancer UK

Here is Adele's story...

My mum was 63 years old when she was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer...

Something wasn't right with mum

Mum worked hard all her life and the previous 20 years as a shop manager working long shifts and early starts for deliveries. About 6 months before her diagnosis she was starting to feel more tired than usual. Mum believed this was due to her getting older. She also started to lose a lot of weight but again she did not consider anything was wrong as she was so busy with work and sometimes did not always eat 3 square meals a day (her appetite had also decreased but again she thought this was due to work and her age).

I had my baby boy on the 30th April 2017 and mum was too tired to join in with the joys of a new baby. This is when I knew something wasn’t right with mum. 3 weeks later I noticed how much weight mum had actually lost, she had dropped 4 dress sizes. She mentioned that she was suffering with indigestion but again put this down to her new eating habits.

In June a family member was getting married, mum attended the hen do and did not drink much – which was unusual for mum not to be the life and soul of the party. Mum helped organise the wedding and the flower arrangements, as she always did for family occasions. The wedding was at 1pm and mum was particularly tired by the time the service started. It was a hot summer’s day and mum started to feel sick after barely eating from the buffet BBQ. Mum did not have a celebratory glass of wine and went home early as she had been sick.

Getting the diagnosis

This then became a daily occurrence and prompted mum to see her GP. He organised for blood tests and a MRI scan. On the 25th June mum was called back to the GP for her results, this was when the nightmare started for us all. My sister took mum to her appointment as I had a poorly 2 month old baby at home, my sister called me to let me know that the GP had told mum that she had shown positive signs of Pancreatic Cancer. I was in shock and thought what the hell is Pancreatic cancer, that was a common cancer that you see on signage in hospitals or on the TV. I obviously knew we had a Pancreas but had never heard of Pancreatic Cancer.

She was then referred for an ultrasound and my sister and I went with mum to see a consultant at Weymouth Hospital on the 11th July. This is when we had confirmation that she had stage 4 Pancreatic cancer in the head of the Pancreas that was wrapped around the blood vessels along with metastasis to her Liver. Our lives were turned upside down. We were moved to another room to speak with the Cancer nurse and we sat in disbelief.

Mum had fought cancer twice before and we had kind of anticipated that it would be the same this time... sadly not.

Building memories

Photo of YvonneLeaving the hospital and driving along the esplanade watching people laughing and joking going about their lives was a very surreal experience that I will never forget. Mum was offered Chemotherapy to give her a couple of extra months, without chemo they said she would have 2-3 months. Mum was concerned about having Chemo but decided that she wanted to spend one last Christmas with us and if that was her fighting chance then she would give it a go. Mum started Chemo in the August and coped very well initially with it, even managing to do a 15,000 foot Sky Dive and raised money for Pancreatic Cancer UK. Mum would never had entertained a sky dive before this diagnosis!!

We spent months going on holiday with mum and doing lots of lovely memory building activities with family and friends. Mum continued to work when she felt well enough to do so, old habits break hard!!

The final journey With the Chemo, the growth of the tumour slowed down; but then problems started with various visits to A&E when mum developed anaemia, caught infections that needed antibiotics, low white blood counts, blood clots – with every hurdle the Chemo was put on hold. She developed diabetes as part of this Cancer and struggled to maintain her blood sugar levels. The Cancer took hold again and started to spread. She never gave up hope that she could beat it. Christmas came but mum was too poorly to enjoy the day that she desperately wanted to enjoy. On Boxing Day she became very poorly, weak and tired. I called an ambulance for mum and in hospital it was confirmed she had more blood clots. And this meant she was not allowed to try a different type of Chemo.

On the 23rd January, mum wasn’t making sense, saying things that were not quite right. An ambulance was called and she was admitted back into hospital. Her coordination declined over the next few days and her speech was affected. Eventually it was confirmed that she had had a stroke and was admitted into the stroke ward. She had further scans and it was revealed that the Cancer had progressively spread and that she was not expected to last more than a few more days. This was a massive blow to us all as we had not expected this journey to turn out like this. Mum had several other stokes and a week later it was decided that she should be moved to the local hospice.

3.5 weeks later after the fabulous care mum received at Weldmar, mum's journey came to an end. She gave a good 7 month fight which is amazing due to the initial diagnosis she was given. Mum was very lucky that she had the 7 months, 5 of which she was capable to do so much. I now work with Pancreatic Cancer UK and our local hospice and have found that lots of sufferers of Pancreatic cancer have much less time and for that I will be always grateful for having the time to spend with mum.

Pancreatic cancer awareness 

Pancreatic cancer is known as the silent killer because it's hard to diagnose early - it does not cause any signs or symptoms at the early stages. According to Pancreatic Cancer UK common symptoms include tummy and back pain, unexplained weight loss and indigestion.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the fastest spreading cancers and very few treatment options currently exist for pancreatic cancer patients and survival rates are shockingly low, with less than 5% of people living for five years or more after diagnosis. These survival rates have barely changed in 40 years. Find out about the Demand Faster Treatment campaign and sign the petition.

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