by Karen Martin
Mum and I were the best of friends. Every Saturday was our shopping day, visiting different towns and villages locally. Checking out the best coffee shops and latest fashion. Mum was a vibrant, sassy, immaculately dressed lady. Loved to socialise and joined her group of friends daily for a chat and coffee. We were a very small family with little connections mum, dad my brother David myself and husband Reuben. Her family were her world, tragically we lost David in Thailand 2011. Shortly after my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and myself with breast cancer. We were an extremely tight unit and looked after each other and got on with it.
Only on reflection on the last few years am I aware of subtle changes within mum. It started with a difficulty in swallowing and eating less. Often when she served lunch, she omitted to have anything herself, always saying she had already had something. I assumed this was due to the difficulty swallowing. Much later mum started to complain of nausea and a pain in her side and back. After many GP visits and seven A&E visits that lasted between 6-14 hrs each, she was always sent away with anti-sickness tablets. We were all aware there was something wrong and the frustration of being sent home each time was horrendous, what could we do. The most confusing thing was that every visit a full blood profile was done, and counts were all within range. We later learned Pancreatic Cancer does not show up in the blood until much later. It was a dreadful time, mum started to go to bed more, unable to eat, became constipated, passed urine more, did not have the strength to meet with friends, losing a lot of weight, low mood, shaking, loss of appetite and constant nausea.
On one occasion mum was so ill I rang GP to get an urgent appointment, mum was too ill to attend so I went instead. I cried inconsolably in despair begging the GP to help my mum. He asked what do you want me to do, send an ambulance? I replied if that is all you can offer, yes. Once again, the ambulance arrived, mum was taken to hospital, bloods taken, all within range and sent home with anti-sickness tablets, by this stage we had two carrier bags of different anti sickness tablets, none of them giving any relief. These were desperate days and weeks for us all on top of dad struggling with Parkinson’s and needing care.
Mums mood became so low due to the time it was taking to diagnosis, months had passed by now. I arranged a telephone session with Lifeline to help her talk through how she was feeling. When the lady rang mum was too ill to speak to her. That night I stayed with mum which proved to be a terrible night. The sight of mum crawling along the floor during the night not knowing where she was will never leave me.
The following morning my father had a fall resulting in a broken hip. Ambulance arrived and in despair I pleaded with the paramedics to take my mum as well. I knew in my heart time was running out. Both were taken to hospital were mum was given the results of a previous MRI to say she had Pancreatic Cancer spread to the liver. She was given 6 weeks to live. Passing away within five weeks. Dad had his hip replacement, developed sepsis, and passed away also. The two most important people in our lives gone!!
Hindsight is a wonderful thing however not being Pancreatic Cancer aware we had no idea of the symptoms, most of which mum had. Loss of weight, unable to eat, indigestion, pain around her side, abdomen and back, dryness of skin, yellowness of skin, fatigue, sleeping more, low mood, loss of appetite, constipation, constant nausea and passing urine more often. My knowledge of these symptoms was only gained whilst sitting in a doctor’s surgery reading a poster on the wall - sadly after mums passing.
If you have any mix of these symptoms, please speak to your doctor quickly making sure you cover all your ailments which will help in a correct diagnosis. Sadly, mum made individual appointments with TIME in between with each symptom therefore diagnoses of Pancreatic Cancer was not made until it was advanced and into her Liver.
Reading my story, you will be aware of how much TIME was lost in mum getting a diagnosis, pushed from pillar to post, filled with false hope receiving normal blood results. It really is imperative that you recognise the symptoms at an early stage and get medical help, there is no TIME to lose this disease travels rapidly.
Research is vital as with all cancers, many other types are widely known and have wonderful support in funding. Pancreatic Cancer is a lesser-known Cancer with an extremely low success rate if not caught at an early stage. Funding for research is desperately needed.
NIPANC our local Pancreatic Cancer Charity do a fabulous job. Please support them or your own local PC charity in any way you can to help us beat this monster and save lives – no one deserves to die like this.
Pancreatic Cancer shows no mercy, time is of the essence.