Gladys shares her experience of her mother being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015.

19 April 2016

In the summer of 2013, my mother was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. The insulin treatment proved very effective. She soon gained her weight back and was happy as Larry.

At the end of 2013 I was sitting at the living room table writing my final year coursework and my mum stumbled into the living room and landed on the couch. I looked across to her and she said she felt dizzy so I got her some water. She said she felt lethargic and went for a nap. A few minutes later, she sat up on the bed and told me to get her a bucket: she was going to throw up. I quickly rushed to the bathroom and managed to get the bucket just in time. I started to think I should be worried but then thought maybe it was the food we ate. I brushed this isolated incident aside and so did my mum.

A few days later, she was still not feeling well and decided to take a trip to A&E. The doctors diligently looked her over, did a number of tests and came to the conclusion that it was nothing to worry about: it was just the diabetes. My mother never threw up again and was back to her happy, healthy self.

Fast forward to May 2015. I got a phone call from my mother complaining of severe back ache and nausea. She was convinced she had malaria as she had just come back from Kenya. She got some malaria tablets and the tablets seemed to work, as she was soon relieved of her pain and nausea.

Symptoms and getting a diagnosis

A few weeks later my sister was at home and called me in distress. She said something was terribly wrong, but she wasn’t sure what. It appeared my mother could not hold anything down, had been vomiting up to four times a day, had lost an incredible amount of weight, and had completely lost her appetite. We were definitely all worried. This went on for about two weeks and she made trips to her GP complaining of severe back ache. But this time, the GP saw what we are all witnessing right in front of our eyes. There was drastic weight loss and she decided to review the diabetes treatment. However, the GP also referred mother to the hospital for further testing.

In the most unforeseen circumstances that shocked us to the core to this very day, it was revealed that all along this was pancreatic cancer. Not only that, but it had spread to her ovaries and was in the latter stages. But who would have known to check the pancreas for any anomalies instead of treating the diabetes? The cancer presented itself in the perfect disguise as diabetes and we were all none the wiser.

Beginning treatment

We all held our breath and wondered whether there was any hope. But thank God there was. The doctors informed us that she qualified for chemotherapy and our hearts were elated and held on to this chance as though our lives depended on it. The chemotherapy proved to be very effective and mum soon looked and felt better on the treatment. Her appetite improved and she could even walk around like a spring chicken.

After the third round of chemotherapy her symptoms began to change and she even had to have stents put in to alleviate them. As a result the treatment was stopped at the end of October as it was no longer effective. This was a very dull day for us and our hearts were heavy. Suddenly there was an awakening in us and we quickly realised time was of the essence and we made peace with the situation and chose to focus on these precious moments, and boy did we make them count.

Spending quality time with Mum

We sat with her, let her pet our heads, hold her hand, give her all the little treats she enjoyed, discussed all the topics we wanted her to give insight on and enjoyed her company. We forged new meaning from this situation and gave her our all and it turned out to be a positive life changing experience. We thanked God for having her around during Christmas and we felt incredibly blessed and favoured when we ushered in 2016 with her.

In January 2016 she was admitted to a hospice which completely changed our outlook in life. We stayed in her company awake or asleep and kept reminding her of what a great mother she was and that we were incredibly proud and privileged to be her daughters. On 17th January God’s angels came for her and in her own words we said, ‘God is good.’

April 2016