A woman drinking tea - Christine - Pancreatic cancer UK

Jen & Christine

Christine was 73 when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She passed away a little over a month after first seeing her GP. Her daughter, Jen, shares their experience and describes how her mum lived the way she wanted to, right until the end.


Back in September 2020, my mum Christine was looking slightly jaundiced in the face and around her neck. I called our local doctors for an appointment, they called me back within 3 minutes and asked to see mum straight away. After speaking to the doctor, he made a call to the hospital and asked that we make our way to the hospital as they were expecting mum.

She seemed so much better after the stent, we weren’t too worried

After a few days of tests, mum had a stent put in and her colour had returned. Whilst in hospital mum often gave us a shopping list which included sugar, mum liked her tea sweet and didn’t want to bother the nurse too much. Even to this day her two grandchildren ask for a “nanny Christine cup of tea”. Mum would often walk to the shop within the hospital and buy biscuits and magazine and walk round the ward talking to the other patients.

One day the nurse said the stent was working but there was an odd mass that needed to be looked at. Mum seemed fine, so we weren’t too worried as her colour had improved and she felt well. We celebrated mum’s 73rd birthday in hospital with the family and grandchildren, it was a lovely day. A few days later we received the worst news we could ever imagine as a family – mum was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and only had 3-6 months to live. The doctor told my brother who broke the news to me, I don’t think mum could face telling us. She told my older sister that she couldn’t afford to pay for her funeral, that’s when my sister realised mum was dying. We told mum not to worry about stuff like that. None of us had really heard of pancreatic cancer and what it meant for us.

We were a bit naïve about what mum would and wouldn’t be able to do

Mum wasn’t offered any chemo just Creon®  and anti-sickness pills, which we often found hidden in her hospital bed! Mum was tough, strong, and stubborn and always did want she wanted to do. Mum was discharged from hospital after three weeks and was referred to the support and care of a local hospice. But no care assessment took place or calls to provide additional equipment like a hospital bed in our front room or carers arranged. My brother, Russ; sister, Gail; sister-in-law, Katie; and I were with mum round the clock whilst giving mum her own space. The first few days after being discharged from hospital she was able to walk, eat and go to the toilet without much support. We weren’t told much information and were naive as we thought we could continue doing all the things mum liked to do, pub lunches, National Trust days out and one last Christmas together.

Mum took a turn for the worse

Mum took a turn for the worse on the 20th October 2020, and we called the paramedics. They showed such kindness and care to mum. They stayed and contacted our local hospice to request an assessment and find out why no one had contacted us or provided us with any supporting equipment. Mum seemed to recover and was able to sit up. I remember the paramedic coming down the stairs to tell us mum was ready for her Weetabix!

She died peacefully at home with her family and cat by her side

My mum sadly passed away in her sleep on the 21st October. Mum was smiling and looked so peaceful. Although we had no external support, mum was happy to be home and wouldn’t have wanted a bed in the front room or lots of equipment round the house. I said mum was stubborn.

The doctor who originally saw my mum at the surgery came to declare my mum’s death and said this was something he wanted to do as he remembered us from the appointment. He was very kind and treated mum with such dignity. The doctor confirmed it had only been 32 days since he saw me and my mum at the doctors surgery.

The day mum died we received a knock on the door, a visit from the nurses at the hospice to complete an assessment and an equipment delivery, all too late. The PA called from the hospital to say they were discussing if chemo could be an option for mum, but mum was already gone.

She lived how she wanted to live, right to the end

Although mum died of this cancer, she wasn’t too unwell with it, mum just became too weak and couldn’t eat much food. We made the most of every day, watching mum’s favourite ghost programmes and reading ghost stories by candlelight. We can take comfort in the fact that our mum died peacefully at home with her family all together one last time including DeeDee, mum’s cat, who didn’t leave her side. My mum had cancer, but she took control of it and lived how she wanted to live right to the end.

December 2022