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It might be you!

On World Cancer Day seven reasons why Pancreatic Cancer deserves increased awareness, better funding and more research

Today, Friday, February 4th, 2022 is World Cancer Day; a day that unites people, communities, and entire countries to raise awareness and take action.

Many of you will already know us but for those who don’t NIPANC is an emerging NI charity working to improve the outcomes specifically in the area of pancreatic cancer.

Our roots are in a group of people affected by this disease. We come together for support and to support others, raise funds and promote better diagnosis and treatment for future patients.

Following are seven reasons to read on:

Ivan McMinn MBE, Chairperson NIPANC, and a pancreatic cancer survivor: “My drive and determination was to survive for my children, to be there for them. That was my overwhelming thought. I didn’t think about wanting to get back on to the golf course or much else. Being around for my kids was my sole purpose. They were only 12 and 14 at the time. It was far too soon to say goodbye. The experience of having to tell them about my diagnosis was no walk in the park.”

Ivan McMinn MBE, Chairperson NIPANC

Lisa Strutt, NIPANC Board Member who lost her husband John to cancer: “Just over four years ago, my husband John was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He passed away just over a year ago and what a journey it has been. Nothing prepares you for grief, for raising teenage children who have lost their dad, for the rawness of their emotions. But I’m still standing, giving back, still pursuing joy and happiness because that is what John would have wanted and what I expect of myself.

Lisa Strutt, NIPANC Board Member

Kerry Irvine, a founding member of NIPANC: “My husband Noel was the love of my life. His symptoms had been mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome and it was 18 months before it was eventually realised, he had pancreatic cancer. By then it was too late to treat him. Noel left a distraught wife and two children behind him.”

Kerry Irvine, founding member of NIPANC

Brian Grzymek, a former Senior Civil Servant and NIPANC Board Member: “Out of the blue, that is how pancreatic cancer hits you. One day you are enjoying family life, planning for holidays and the future, the next day you are in an uncertain world of inexplicable symptoms and your loved one’s life suddenly hanging in the balance.”

Brian Grzymek, NIPANC Board Member

Susan Cooke, founding member of NIPANC: “November 26th 2012 is a day that is hard to forget. It was the day my husband Colin was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the middle of a busy A&E Unit. Unfortunately, it was too late and treatment was not an option. He passed away just eleven weeks later on February 10th 2013 at the age of 45 leaving behind two boys, 19 and three. Only eleven weeks and every second mattered.”

Susan Cooke, founding member of NIPANC

Gary Carson, Secretary NIPANC: “Back at the beginning of 2014, I had just turned 51 and like many hoping to embrace what middle age had to offer and enjoying time with my wife Sandra. Those aspirations ended abruptly within a matter of just a few months. Out of the blue Sandra began to complain of pains in her upper abdomen and back and was sick on several occasions. After numerous medical appointments, she was finally admitted to hospital. Sandra passed away just one month later on August 20th 2014. My life would simply never be the same again.”

Gary Carson, Secretary NIPANC

Gary Kirby, Social Media Lead, NIPANC: “I got home at around 5pm on a Tuesday in April 2015 and my partner Olive (Buckley) told me to sit down. She didn’t beat about the bush and told me she had pancreatic cancer which had spread to her liver and lungs. The fact that the cancer had spread meant the tumour was inoperable so the only option was chemotherapy. Neither of us knew anything about pancreatic cancer but the next day I made the mistake of using Google to read up on it. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Pancreatic cancer is the deadliest of diseases. Olive passed away in the early hours of September 29th 2016.”

Gary Kirby, Social Media Lead, NIPANC

Approximately 260 people are diagnosed with the condition in NI each year. The death rate is significantly high. NI has one of the worst survival rates in the world – ranking 32nd out of 36 countries.

Sadly only 1% of those diagnosed will reach ten-year survival. Three out of five patients could have surgery to cure their pancreatic cancer but were diagnosed too late. Pancreatic cancer receives five times less government funding than other countries.

Last November during World Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, we campaigned hard to raise awareness among the public and medical professionals about the need to recognise the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer and seek early diagnosis and treatment.

Today we are back again, adding our voice to World Cancer Day because no stone should be left unturned when it comes to preventing individuals and their families having to face the pain and fear of a cancer journey; let alone a pancreatic diagnosis.

That means keeping the momentum up, building awareness, working harder than ever before to raise funds, increase our deservedness as a charity and support individuals and families in the hope that one day, out-of-the blue, it is not you.

Find out more about the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer here.


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