World Pancreatic Cancer Day – a day to reflect and demand a better future
This week sees my 3rd World Pancreatic Cancer Day as Chief Exec of Pancreatic Cancer UK. It is a day when buildings and monuments across the globe shine a purple light to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer as we come together to remember all those we have lost to the disease. It is a simple act, but significant. Pancreatic cancer is the 3rd leading cancer killer world-wide. Here in the UK, it is still the deadliest common cancer, with half of those diagnosed dying within just three months. These are shocking statistics, but it is essential that we understand the urgency of the pancreatic cancer cause.
Pancreatic Cancer UK has always punched above its weight. When I arrived, our ambition was to become a £5m charity so that we could invest more into our research. We have had a phenomenal period of growth over the last three years, exceeding our ambitions in both impact and income thanks to our supporters, the work of the charity and the wider pancreatic cancer community. I am superbly proud of our team and all our supporters – I cannot thank them enough for all they do, tirelessly for people affected by pancreatic cancer.
At Pancreatic Cancer UK, our vision has always been a world where everyone will live long and well with pancreatic cancer.
But we are now facing a far harder challenge than we ever imagined was possible. The impact of COVID on the care and treatment of pancreatic cancer was immediate in the first wave of the pandemic. Initially, we saw treatments cancelled and diagnosis fall even further behind. Any kind of delay in diagnosis or treatment of pancreatic cancer can have a significant impact on survival. That’s why we launched our No Time to Wait Campaign asking the NHS to prioritise pancreatic cancer in the Cancer Recovery plans and why we are giving our full support to NHS England’s Help Us to Help You campaign that is highlighting some of the vague symptoms that could be a sign of pancreatic cancer. It is so important people who are worried see their GP as soon as possible.
Early diagnosis is a vital part of the jigsaw puzzle of transforming pancreatic cancer survival where more progress must be made. Although our fundraising has been severely hampered by the ongoing pandemic, we continue to prioritise funding world-class research projects led by scientists who are leaders in their fields. This includes our work in accelerating early and accurate diagnosis, which is already showing such promise.
COVID has made us all look at how we prioritise the important and refocus us on our values both at home and at work. At Pancreatic Cancer UK, our vision has always been a world where everyone will live long and well with pancreatic cancer. Our vision has not changed, but while the world in which we are now living and working within has, we have risen to the challenge.
By launching digital support services; expanding our Support Line nursing team to meet demand; building a pancreatic cancer in COVID network for the clinical and research community; and digitalising our entire fundraising portfolio of events and activities, we have ensured we are still here when people need us most, and have created a fantastic virtual community of supporters in doing so.
It has been an inspirational, if not exhausting period of change and development for the charity. I came into 2020 believing we were on the cusp of delivering real change for people with this devastating disease and that conviction hasn’t left me, despite everything we’ve faced. Together we must now keep the momentum going, by bringing more support in to the cause and ensuring that pancreatic cancer stays high on the political and health agendas.
So as we light up our #PurpleLightsUK we look forward to the coming year and a future that we must not lose sight of – a world where everyone lives well and long with pancreatic cancer.
Happy World Pancreatic Cancer Day!