Meet Arthur – our new Trustee with personal experience of pancreatic cancer

Arthur Calderwood joined Pancreatic Cancer UK as one of 6 new Trustees this year. After being diagnosed with operable pancreatic cancer in late 2020, and receiving support from our Specialist Nurses, Arthur saw our recent call for new Trustees as his opportunity to give back to a cause close to his heart.

With 30+ years working in Sales, Marketing, Communications and Strategy, at executive level in Europe and globally, the combination of his professional credentials and personal experience of pancreatic cancer make him an invaluable asset to help drive change. Here he tells us a little more about what makes him tick, and what he hopes to achieve as a Trustee for pancreatic cancer.

Can you tell us a bit about your story and why you decided to become a trustee for Pancreatic Cancer UK?

I returned to the UK late 2019, after living and working in Switzerland for 23 years. I had been the Chief Marketing Officer for a global IT Services company in the Air Transport Industry and I was fortunate to be able to retire early and return to the UK to be near my family.

It seems the classic story of disaster happening after someone retires and that indeed was my case. In November 2020 I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer – thankfully discovered at a relatively early stage, even though I only had mild symptoms, due to a swift referral from my doctor to a Consultant Gastroenterologist.

Luckily my cancer was operable and I had the ‘whipple’ procedure on November 26 and this year I completed 5 months of chemotherapy under Prof Cunningham at The Royal Marsden Hospital. My last scan on 14 June was clear.

During this difficult period, I saw a social media post looking for Trustees for Pancreatic Cancer UK. As Pancreatic Cancer UK had been a key support to me throughout my diagnosis and treatment, both online and through their specialist nurses, I was keen to do what I could to help. Really I saw the opportunity to become a trustee as a gift to me – being able to use my skills to further a cause (now so close to my heart) and one that desperately needs help.


What do you think your own personal experience of pancreatic cancer brings to the role?

I understand the sense of urgency to tackle the extremely poor improvement in the survival rates over the last 40 years. And as a patient there is also the need for urgency – it is a horrible disease, hard to diagnose, it can advance rapidly and there are tough treatment options – both surgery and chemotherapy – if you are lucky enough to have those available to you.

The treatment path is hard to understand for the patient when reeling from the shock of diagnosis. The experience and skills to tackle pancreatic cancer are not everywhere – especially in your local GP practice who may only see a few cases (if any) in a year. You need to find the best help you can.

With intimate knowledge of this context I feel I can direct my help to Pancreatic Cancer UK more effectively – it is an unfortunate advantage that I reluctantly have but I can use it to hopefully drive things forward positively for other sufferers.


And how do you think your professional experience background in sales, marketing, communication and strategy can help with the challenges Pancreatic Cancer UK faces?

Broadly I think experience at executive level teaches you to keep a focus on the right priorities. There are so many ambitious projects and goals out there for Pancreatic Cancer UK to tackle but it’s important to drive those where you can see a direct impact in the short to medium term.

While Pancreatic Cancer UK is not a commercial business it almost needs to be run like one to deliver on the vision it has. Myself and other trustees can help in steering it that way given our experience in other industries where possibly lessons we have learnt can be of value.

Specifically, my many years of experience in three areas can help directly and I am excited to put these to the test: strategy development, strategic communications and culture transformation. Pancreatic Cancer UK has ambitious plans for the next 10 years and that means these 3 areas will be critical to its success.


What do you think the biggest challenges are around improving the future for people with the disease?

Fast track diagnosis and consistent treatment across the UK.

Research, some funded in partnership with Pancreatic Cancer UK, will potentially help short cut diagnosis in the future. There is not a quick test to diagnosis pancreatic cancer today. It will come I am sure and of course we need to explore new ways to make it easier for the local GP practice or indeed online tools to assist diagnosis (potentially through AI). I was lucky to be diagnosed quickly, without that the disease could have spread and I would not be here!

Consistent treatment is key to a difficult path pancreatic cancer sufferers have to follow. You are effectively thrown in at the deep end when diagnosed and you have no knowledge of the journey you are about to take and its milestones. Often where you live in the UK and whether you are an NHS or private patient will determine how bumpy the journey will be. It’s critical that, from best practice experience, this path is as optimal for all patients as possible


What does success as a Trustee look like for you personally?

Success for me is to help the Pancreatic Cancer UK team in any way I can, using my skills and patient experience to realise their ambitious goals.

As I mentioned I feel the opportunity to be a Trustee for Pancreatic Cancer UK a gift. I want to give back in a way that the team genuinely feel they are stronger having me sharing their challenge.


Finally, can you tell us about some of your other passions and what you like to do in your spare time?

I moved back to the UK with my wife, to be close to our four children and grandson. Family plays a big part in my life, even more so when you are recovering from pancreatic cancer.

Travel also plays a big part – although we live in the UK we have a home in France and post COVID we hope to enjoy it more. We also love to travel back to Switzerland, especially in winter.

My final passion is music. Throughout the years of my kids growing up and still today music plays a big part. Loving going to concerts and having many of them being special moments in my life with the family.

So …… with my family, travelling to a concert at the Montreux Jazz festival in Switzerland would be the ideal way to fill my ‘spare’ time!


We are incredibly grateful for the time, expertise and passion that our talented Trustees generously give for free to help ensure the charity achieves its aims. If you’d like to read more about our Trustees, including the 5 other new members who also joined in March, you can find out more here.