“As a survivor, I want to offer some form of hope to othersv who have found themselves in the same situation I did in 2007. And I will be continuing to campaign so that more people will be able to have the same outcome that I had.”
On 30th August 2007, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer – a disease that I had never heard of before. A couple of months before my own diagnosis, I was a healthy 41-year-old woman who exercised regularly, didn’t smoke and only drank in moderation.
Suddenly, I began to experience pains in the centre of her back, which felt like a tennis ball in between her shoulder blades, that moved round her front under her rib cage. Worryingly, even though I was not trying to lose any weight, I lost a stone in just a few weeks. In addition, I was suffering from bouts of diarrhoea which I’d never had before. Bent over double with crippling pains under her rib cage, I went to her GP for the fourth time in as many weeks. On the fourth visit, the GP told me I had indigestion and prescribed Gaviscon. This had no effect on the considerable pain that I was suffering and so I returned to her GP a week later.
This time, I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and prescribed an anti-spasmodic drug. Yet again, this did not seem to reduce the agony that I was facing and another visit to the surgery resulted in a diagnosis of stomach irritation caused by anti-inflammatory painkillers I’d been prescribed previously, so I was prescribed codeine instead but this had no impact.
Finally, it was a visit to a locum GP that moved me closer to the diagnosis that would change my life. I asked a lot of detailed questions and even phoned the local hospital’s A&E surgical specialist to get a second opinion. As a result, I was told to visit A & E if the pain worsened which I did on a bank holiday. They told me to return to my GP and luckily this was the same locum GP. Having seen me before, the GP knew that the worsening of the symptoms required an urgent referral, and I was sent to a pancreatic surgeon, which probably saved my life as if it was a different specialist, things could have been delayed even more.
The surgeon arranged for scans to be taken two days later which revealed the devastating news that I had a 5cm cancerous tumour in the middle of her pancreas. In hindsight, I was actually one of the ‘lucky ones’ as my cancer had not spread beyond her pancreas and was operable. If the tumour had been discovered just weeks later, it was likely to have been inoperable as when it was discovered, it was growing next to some major blood vessels.
Thanks to an excellent surgical team in Surrey, my operation was successful and following six months of chemotherapy treatment, I had become one of the lucky few to survive pancreatic cancer and I knew that for herself, having discovered more about the disease, its devastating statistics and the lack of funding and awareness.
And so Pancreatic Cancer Action was born in August 2010 with the main aim being to make sure that patients were diagnosed early like me.
My passion for the cause and the fact that I’m a rare survivor of pancreatic cancer, has resulted in me appearing on TV, radio and national press, raising awareness of pancreatic cancer and inspiring others with my story of survival.