Sarah shares the story of her Dad, John, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer aged 64

29 August 2018

My Dad, John, experienced severe stomach pains for 12 months; not knowing what was causing him such pain. He had attended A&E many times, always being sent away with painkillers that he was already taking for his heart condition. The tablets never helped.

After picking me up from work one day my Dad nearly collapsed behind the wheel of his car. The pain he experienced had never been so severe at this point. The day after this episode my Mom rang our GP at the end of her tether, as going back to A&E was not an option after being sent home yet again with no hope and no diagnosis. Our GP suggested asking the paramedics to take my Dad to an alternative hospital.

Getting a diagnosis

My Dad was taken to a different hospital in March 2016 and promptly had a CT scan performed. The very next day he was given a diagnosis of advanced pancreatic cancer and was sent home to palliative care.

As a family we never believed it could be cancer that Dad had. When we were told how long Dad had to live, it took so much strength not to cry and to be strong for my Dad. I remember that he didn’t hear the doctor so my Mom and I had to tell him how long he had to live. He was devastated. The prognosis was 3-6 months.

We tried to make the most of the time Dad had left. We took him to Stratford upon Avon where many happy times have been spent over the years. Dad’s health deteriorated rapidly. Within a week he was wheelchair bound; lacking the strength to stand from the pain. The worst conversation came when Dad spoke about his funeral arrangements and signing a DNR (do not resuscitate). It all became real.

Dad sadly passed away 6 weeks after he was diagnosed. Towards the end his breathing altered and he became hallucinatory and restless.

Two years on

I’ve struggled since he’s gone, especially receiving a letter 6 days after he died from a doctor saying his pancreas was fine. I’ve tried grief counselling which helped me work through my anger and sort my thoughts. But I still struggle 2 years on. It doesn’t get any easier but the grief becomes manageable.

I’ve taken part in Race for Life and have raised money for Cancer Research UK. I hope to do more fundraisers to raise awareness for pancreatic cancer. It’s one of the most cruel cancers.

I’ll always remember how brave my Dad was and I’ll remember him as the cheeky chap he was – and the best Dad.