An older woman at a party with her two adult sons

Gary & Maggie

Gary’s mum, Maggie, started to get symptoms so her family took her to the hospital for tests. They were devastated to learn she had pancreatic cancer which had spread to the liver and lungs. Four years after Maggie passed away at 58 years old, Gary reflects on the impact on their family.


My mum had a cancer scare a couple of years before she was actually diagnosed, but had a regular check-ups and nothing significant was found so she was given the all-clear.

2019 was a nightmare year for our family and in the March my mum lost her eldest sister to heart disease at the age of 66. Over the next few months, while my mum and the rest of the family were grieving this tragic loss, my mum did seem to be losing weight but she didn’t really mention feeling unwell. She would make light of losing a bit of weight and kind of looked at it as a positive.

She started to feel unwell

As we came to August my mum and the rest of her siblings would have an annual trip away and this year they had planned to go to Marbella. But as the trip was approaching, my mum started to say she wasn’t feeling good, she mentioned her back was aching and she was having trouble going to the toilet.

The symptoms persisted and up until a few days before the trip she was adamant she wasn’t going. We managed to get her into the doctors, and he advised she had pancreatitis. She was given some medication that would help her to go to the toilet. The medication helped and she decided she would go on the trip.

While she was away, it was apparent she was very unwell, but she soldiered on as best she could, as she always would. She didn’t like to make a fuss and looking back, she was probably really worried about how she was feeling, but convincing herself it would pass. But while she was away with her siblings she couldn’t really hide it.

We took her for tests

When she got home on 3rd September, she explained how bad she had been while she was away. Me and my brother (Daniel) said enough is enough, we are taking you to the hospital. She was examined and had bloods taken and she was kept in and admitted to a ward. She had several tests and scans over the next week or two.

The diagnosis was devastating

I got a call to come to the hospital on 3rd October where the results would be explained to us as a family, and the results were devastating. She was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer, and it also spread to her liver and lungs.

Once we had taken that information in, we asked how long she might have left, and we were told maybe 12 to 18 months with treatment. It was such a shattering blow to the family. My mum was so brave, and she wanted to be as brave as possible and face this head on.

My mum came home a day or two later where we would wait for treatment to start. All the family were amazing, rallying around as best we could, and we all chipped in taking her to appointments.

She had blood clots

The hospital discovered she had a blood clot so she was kept in a few days and given treatment for it. A few days later she came home, but you could see she was getting worse day by day.

On 23rd November I got a call to get to my mum’s as she wasn’t doing great. An ambulance was called to take her to hospital. They got her on a drip and gave her some medication, and she really came around compared to how she was earlier.

She was taken for a scan and we were informed that she had more blood clots and in her particular case further treatment was risky. So it was decided that she would come home and receive end-of-life care.

This was around midnight, so we made sure she was comfy and planned to be back in the morning when things would be set up so she could be looked after at home.

Unfortunately, in the early hours of 24th November we got a call saying we needed to get to the hospital as she had a turn for the worst and things weren’t great, but by the time I got there she had passed. I know it was the right time for her because she wouldn’t have wanted to suffer anymore, but I wasn’t ready and it’s still so hard for me to come to terms with.

I take a little crumb of comfort knowing she went peacefully. She had a moment with the nurse, saying she knows she’s going to die, and could she have a glass of apple juice before she goes, she had a drink and lay back and fell to sleep.

We all miss her so much

My mum was an amazing person and was loved by everyone she came across.

She was a great mum, sister, aunty and friend and she was an amazing nana to my daughter Macy, and that was her favourite role. It gave her a new lease of life now her two boys were older. What hurts me the most is that her relationship with Macy got cut short by this cruel disease as they had so many plans for when Macy got older.

Mum, you were such an amazing person and our lives will never be the same again.


November 2023