Raymond & Mary

Raymond shares the story of his wife, Mary's, experience of pancreatic cancer.

1 May 2012

Mary was diagnosed in 2008

“Do my eyes look yellow”, Mary asked me in late May 2008. “I’m no judge”, I replied, “best ask Anne-Marie when she arrives”. Anne-Marie, our daughter, visited later and confirmed Mary’s fears.

Minor ailments concerning digestion had caused her to consult her GP several times and now it was time to get to the bottom of it. A scan at the general hospital was arranged and this resulted in an investigation of the bile duct and insertion of a stent to improve her digestive process. The question remained as to what was congesting the bile duct and a biopsy was taken to check it out.

Getting the right diagnosis

The following morning, a bedside conference was convened. We held hands and listened to these medical professionals tell us a tumour had been the root cause of the trouble and tests were being carried out.

Much as we would like the world to stop when shock hits at the very roots of your life – events already in progress have to be dealt with. Our Nile Cruise became an insurance claim. Our 3rd grandchild’s birth was close and our son’s wedding was already arranged for 27th July.

Surgery and recovery

On 23rd June the surgeon told us he could operate and this was performed on 1st July and the cancer removed in it’s entirety. He was very optimistic about a full recovery. Not everything was perfect though! Of 26 lymph glands examined, 6 had been cancerous.

After the operation, Mary spent a week in a High Dependency Unit and was then transferred to a normal ward. All her friends were anxious to see her and of course Mary wanted to know all the gossip from her friends and colleagues in Debenhams fashion department. My role was to be appointments secretary, fitting them all in, to suit.

Family milestones

Two weeks after being in theatre she was allowed home she loved sitting in the conservatory watching her birds on the bird-table in the garden. Three days after coming home, I got a call, I was needed to babysit the grandchildren as baby number 3 was coming into this world. Next day Mary had the joy of holding Lucy – a new life in the family.

Ten days later we made our journey to rural Somerset, for the wedding of our son Richard and Mirielle. Air cushions helped pad the car seat and several stops had to be made to have a break. The wedding was in a converted old mill and it just happened to be the sunniest day of the Summer. Another family milestone achieved successfully. The wedding photos showed no evidence of her surviving recent major surgery.


Just to be on the safe side the surgeon set up a course of chemotherapy to eliminate any residual cancer cells. Her recovery needed to be in a good state for her to withstand the effects of this therapy. So after a week in the Isle of Wight, 6 months chemotherapy got underway on 8th September. This, at first, seemed daunting but lost it’s scariness after a few sessions, especially as she could complete the infusion in about an hour. Although she felt down for a day or two after each session she loved the pamper sessions made available at the Macmillan Centre.

2009 became a memorable year. Chemotherapy completed in February. Returned to work, 2 days a week in March. Great nephew James, a teenage from Australia, visits and stays with us for a month in April.

Completing a long held dream

In May, blood test indicators showed presence of cancer cells. Assurances were made that, in isolation, this was not specially significant – and she did feel well. A CT scan was taken and nothing could be seen, so life would carry on – (the spectre of cancer returning was ever present, but we would deal with that when it happened and appreciate what we had, while we had it).

A long held dream was to take a Mediterranean Cruise. The anticipation and preparation was a tonic and the realisation of our dream coming true took hold. (Holiday insurance was surprisingly reasonable). So in October, we boarded OCEANA and lived the dream for 13 days. Mary was a devout Roman Catholic and we headed for Rome. Our aim was to spend the day at the Vatican and when she was able to join in an English Mass, in St Peter’s itself, a long held aspiration from childhood came true. That night, on board, we dined al fresco, under the Mediterranean stars.

Nothing of note happened then until Sunday 30th May 2010. When getting ready to go out she felt pain in her lower spine. Thus started a regime of tests, scans and consultations. It was back, in her lungs and spine. Sadly, Mary passed away on 17th October 2010. She loved her son, Richard, singing to her and she was listening to a CD of his music.

May 2021