Side by Side – our volunteers
Age at diagnosis: 60
Type of surgery: Whipple’s procedure
“I can remember in late 2013 the worry and concern when I began to feel unwell. I knew something serious was going on. I went to the GP three times, over 5 months, about different symptoms. Eventually I was referred to a consultant at a local hospital. He arranged a colonoscopy (all clear) and sent me for a CT scan, which found it.
My wife accompanied me when we went to see him for the results. He told us that they had found a ‘shadow’ on the pancreas. He then said they did not deal with it there and that I would be referred to a specialist hospital and someone would be in touch.
We somehow managed to stand up with a stiff upper lip and thank the doctor and walk out of his door, whereupon we both broke down in tears and a nurse placed us a side room and brought us a cup of tea. We composed ourselves and were able to go home and tell the immediate family.
We phoned the Pancreatic Cancer UK Support Line and were grateful for their support and assistance.
When I was told I was suitable for surgery I was worried/scared, but grateful for the chance. The surgery occurred in April 2014, and took 10 hours.
There was no Side by Side service then – had there been, I know for sure that I would have jumped at the chance to speak to someone that had been through what I faced, who could allay some of my fears and worries and give me hope and confidence for post-surgery.
I decided to volunteer with Side by Side as I knew the fear and worry first hand. I’m now able to reassure and comfort others, being a 7 year survivor.
It’s an honour for me to be able to support and help others. I’m a calm, relaxed and positive person in everyday life and hopefully can convey that on to others to reassure them.”
Age at diagnosis: 62
Type of surgery: Whipple’s procedure
“Our family was very fortunate. None of our relatives had had cancer in three generations. Then, in 2013, we were all shocked with the news that my brother-in-law had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the age of 61. At his funeral in December 2014 I knew that something was wrong with me.
I was diagnosed in February 2015 with pancreatic cancer which, at the time, was considered inoperable. One week before my diagnosis, our daughter had told us that our first grandchild was expected later in the year. I wondered if I would live to be able to hold the baby.
The prognosis was not good. I was offered a course of chemotherapy (FOLFIRINOX) to slow the growth of the tumour and allow more precious time. At that point there was no hope of surgery, but after several rounds of chemotherapy, the tumour had shrunk to the point where surgery was a possibility. So, immediately after my son’s wedding, I had a Whipple’s procedure. To everyone’s amazement the chemotherapy had been so effective that only the head of my pancreas was removed.
Two months later we welcomed our first granddaughter – the baby I thought I might never see. We have welcomed three more since then – a sister and two cousins! They are the joy of our lives. I now live a fairly normal life and I am thankful for every new day.
I found Pancreatic Cancer UK, almost by accident, shortly after my operation and we have found their support to be invaluable. Our wider family has raised over £10,000 to support pancreatic cancer charities in the hope that more people will survive, and more families will know where they can turn for help.
I am a Side by Side volunteer because I want to be there for anyone else facing this horrible disease. It is not always easy to ask all the questions that arise when you are with the oncology team. I regard every single day as a blessing and hope that by being prepared to honestly share my experiences, I can give strength and reassurance to others.”