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My pancreatic cancer story: Claire

Updated: Jan 17, 2022

NIPANC supporter Claire Barnes who lost her best friend of 17-years Aundrea to pancreatic cancer talks about the courage with which her friend faced this deadly disease.

When you lose your best friend to Pancreatic Cancer

Before July 2016 I wasn’t really aware of Pancreatic Cancer. My knowledge only went as far as “oh that’s what Patrick Swayze died from this”. Never in a million years did I think I would watch my best friend of 17 years suffer from this brutal disease and take her far too soon.

Aundrea and I had been best friends for 17 years. She was my person. She had such a zest for life and we were chalk and cheese but we were BESTIES

“Aundrea first started to feel unwell in May 2016 when she was on holiday, she had pains in her back and knew something wasn’t right. She took herself to A&E when she got back and was told it was kidney stones. She went back and forth for further consultations and on 11th July 2016 she was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer.

“When she was diagnosed, it was a path I didn’t think we’d ever walk. But I knew my best friend and giving up wasn’t an option. The fight had begun to do all she could to fight this brutal disease ….little did we know Pancreatic Cancer had other ideas.

“After the diagnosis I remember her saying, “Ill deal with anything as long as it’s not terminal”. Unfortunately, when the tests came back it showed the tumour was was wrapped round the neck of pancreas. She was told to “go home and make memories”. I never thought I’d be discussing funeral arrangements with my best friend at 43 years old.

Giving up wasn’t an option. Cancer wasn’t going to beat her …again Pancreatic Cancer had other ideas

“Aundrea had been through the cancer journey before as her son James was diagnosed with a brain tumour when he was just two and a half years old. He had been through surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, so Aundrea knew what treatment would involve, but giving up wasn’t an option for her. As well as James, she also has an older son Jack and was determined to fight the cancer for her boys

“When was told she had 12-15 months with treatment, she started chemotherapy straight away. She knew there wouldn’t be a cure, but just wanted more time. Unfortunately, the chemo hit her hard and it didn’t follow a smooth path. We still refused to give up hope. Aundrea even travelled to Germany for immune therapy. Sadly this had no effect. Aundrea give it her all but sadly there was absolutely nothing left to try.

Aundrea passed away at Marie Curie NI on the 16th of August 2017. My life changed forever.

Nothing prepared me for watching my best friend suffer at the hands of pancreatic cancer. It’s a brutal disease that destroys your body physically, internally and emotionally. Leaving your family and friends watching feeling completely helpless. Walking that journey with my best friend is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I was blessed with 17 years of friendship, love, laughter, good times, and bad times….precious memories. Pancreatic Cancer may have stolen all our tomorrows but it won’t take away my memories.

Pancreatic Cancer steals time from beginning to end. The symptoms mask themselves and when there discovered is more often too late.

- Claire Barnes


Listen to Claire speaking with Frank Mitchell on U105

Claire is joined by specialist surgeon Mark Taylor


Learn more about the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer by clicking here


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