Eddie Carson is 33-years-old and lives in Donaghadee. He works as a Vehicle Damage assessor in a Bodyshop in Bangor. He will be married ten years next June to his wife Anna. They have two children, daughter Ella (3) and new born son, Ted. His mum, Sandra Carson, was just 52 when she passed away to pancreatic cancer on August 20th 2014. Eddie was 24.
Eddie is one among a number of children and young people adding their voices to this year’s #TimeMatters campaign for NIPANC as part of #PCAM (World Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month). They are courageously sharing their stories so other families don’t have to face the trauma they have.
NIPANC is an emerging local pancreatic cancer charity constituted of a group of people whose lives have been impacted by the disease. Eddie’s dad, Gary is a Board Member. Its purpose is to raise public awareness, fund research and support families who face a diagnosis of this devastating cancer.
Eddie said: “I was married on 26th June 2013 to my wonderful wife Anna but towards our 1st year anniversary my Mum started to complain to my dad she didn’t feel right. Obviously not living with my parents anymore I didn’t see too much first hand but Mum began to complain about having a sore back while also finding sitting down uncomfortable.
“This was followed by her being sick a number of times after evening meals. Due to the persistence of these symptoms my dad decided it was time to get answers so after quite a few doctors’ appointments and further tests we knew things weren’t going in the right direction.
“My mum’s bloods weren’t right which indicated inflammation in the body. Ultra sounds were carried out raising questions about her liver and breathing was also becoming slightly difficult at times. Things were going from bad to worse.
“Doctors talked about possible gallstones, severe gastritis but these were only speculations. This is one of the most important issues about this cancer, it goes unseen for too long and has rightly earned its title as the Silent Killer.
“My mum was now getting worse by the day. Months later and after an A&E visit with still no answers a CT scan was done and the results came back far from good. My parents were called to a side room to speak with two consultants to be told mum had pancreatic cancer which had spread to her liver. Surgery and treatments were not possible. Words you never want to hear along with “we will make sure Sandra is comfortable.
“My dad phoned me straight away to tell me to come to the hospital. I was working for Sainsburys out delivering shopping. You can imagine what went through my head. I don’t panic as a rule but deep down I knew something was really wrong and went straight to the Ulster Hospital where family had gathered around mum’s bed.
“I will never forget sitting beside my mum on her hospital bed and saying to me: “Son your mum has cancer”. We embraced for as long as I can remember with tears running down both our faces. My mum was everything to me!
“Just three weeks later mum was out of hospital, at her mum’s (our nanny’s) house. She was so unwell we called an ambulance. On the short journey to the Ulster Hospital, she took a serious stroke leaving no power on her right side. Everything was escalating so quickly.
“The hardest thing to deal with during these last days was being with my Mum without her chat, laughter and craic. Just her all round infectious personality that everyone loved.
“My mum was the life and soul wherever she went but now she now had no movement, no speech. It was heart breaking and very hard to deal with. Feeding your very ill 52-year-old mum with a spoon is something you never want to have to do.
“The worst day ever was upon us. My mum’s room was filled with family members day in, day out. She was never alone. Even at night, my dad used to get a mattress and sleep beside her on the floor.
“Just four weeks after diagnosis my mum took her last breath with her family around her, I felt completely numb, not knowing what to do. At the age of 24, I had just witnessed one of the most difficult moments of my life and it had changed forever. My mum, who was there for me through thick and thin and who was just the best. I will be forever grateful I was able to call her my mum.
“I had heard about pancreatic cancer but didn’t know much about it. I soon found out it is a silent and deadly disease; one that can take a precious life away in just four weeks.
“Life was great before, from getting married the year before to buying and renovating our house. Mum and dad would call to us and we would visit them every other Sunday for the best Sunday lunch. I miss those days!
“My Mum and wife Anna got on so well. They were like best friends. Anna was literally the daughter my Mum never had. I look back on so many fantastic memories, from being to Jamaica, Mexico and Florida. Times we all had to together which mean so much now but little did we know then what was ahead of us.
“The loss of mum affected so many. The feeling you get from losing a parent is gut wrenching, a numbness that can’t be described. Grief comes so quickly with no time to prepare. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. We all get through it in different ways.
“To be honest life was hard afterwards. Being an only child meant I couldn’t share my grief with siblings but I am grateful for having close family and friends. Work also helped to keep me sane and a purpose to carry on.
“I have been blessed with an amazing wife and two kids but this comes with pain also. My Mum loved children and couldn’t wait until the day she would become a granny. Sadly, she wasn’t able to join us in this stage of life. To this day I struggle knowing she would have been in her element. The best granny ever.
My Mum literally was one in a million! As I said before she was “the life and soul wherever she went”. You just met her once and it was like you knew her a lifetime. Friends of mine growing up loved coming to my house to get the craic from my Mum.
Mum’s personality was perfect for her job role. She was in the Travel Business and during her 30 years plus in it she was a World Travel Specialist, a Cruise Co-ordinator, a Wedding and Honeymoon Co-ordinator and a Ski and Sport Co-ordinator. She loved it and loved finding the perfect holiday for each client.
What I would say to anyone who finds themselves in our situation. Be with your family. Time is everything! Tell your parent/partner how much you love them and how thankful you are for them. Don’t have any regrets.
I found it helped to make life as normal as can be under the circumstances. Grief is hard when it arises but try not to hold back, talk to one another, share your feelings, take counselling if need be and look after yourself.
The pattern is very much real with this silent and deadly disease. Too often the symptoms just don’t tell the full story until it’s too late. A quick and accurate diagnosis is really the only option. Even then it could still be too late – time matters significantly!
The more people are aware, the more they know gives the best fighting chance, doctors included. I am thrilled to support NIPANC with this year’s #TimeMatters campaign, my Dad is the secretary for NIPANC which is how I got involved. The more this Cancer is brought to people’s attention the better. Telling my story is one way of doing it.
To finish, my Mum was a Godly woman, not by preaching or by forcing it on people but by living out her faith to the best of her ability. Everybody else came first and she came second no matter the situation. Her heart was Godlike.
I certainly questioned why God took away such a special person so young and it will still remain a question. After all the prayer and asking for my Mum to overcome this disease it was God’s Will he would take her home.
One day I will know the reason but today I take comfort in knowing she is with Jesus - healed and fully restored and now has her infectious personality back. One day I will see her again and it’s such a comfort to know that truth!
Read more about the symptoms of pancreatic cancer HERE