Today, on the first day of designated World Pancreatic Cancer Month, NIPANC will be launching its #TimeMatters Iconic Clocks campaign to promote the importance of understanding the symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer, the urgent need for early diagnosis, treatment, and more research into this deadly disease.
Here, our Chairperson, Ivan McMinn explains more about the campaign and talks about his own battle against pancreatic cancer which he has survived for ten years.
We’ve come up with an idea to use images of iconic clocks across Northern Ireland during November as a symbol for the urgent need for early detection, diagnosis and treatment in a #Time Matters campaign. Why?
Because with a five-year survival rate in the single digits, pancreatic cancer is one of the world’s deadliest cancers and we need to do more to stop the impact this deadly disease is having on individuals and families in Northern Ireland. One life, we say, is too many.
NIPANC, which has its roots in a group of people affected by pancreatic cancer hopes the powerful images will draw attention, spark debate and raise awareness of this type of cancer’s signs and symptoms to members of the public and medical professionals.
We’ll be using clocks such as the famous ‘Meet me at the clock. Make it count’ Titanic staircase clock, the much-loved Belfast Telegraph Clock, the clock calling time in the Quad at Queen’s University, Belfast City Council Chamber Clock and the most famous/infamous of all The Albert Clock and putting them in the heart of the #TimeMatters strategy.
In a bid to save more lives by raising awareness of the disease we’ve also asked for Civic buildings throughout NI to be lit purple and have designed a new brochure to support and signpost people who face a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer about what to expect and where to find help and support. NIPANC has also commissioned new research to gain a better understanding of how the illness impacts people in NI.
During the month NIPANC board members will undertake a 1 million steps challenge to represent the one million people who have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer world-wide in the past two years.
For those who know me hello, for those who don’t - a brief introduction. I’m Ivan McMinn, Chairperson of NIPANC, also Chairperson of Cancer Focus NI and Co-Chair of the NI Cancer Strategy Steering Committee and a former senior executive with Danske Bank.
I know what it is like to survive pancreatic cancer. In November I will reach my ten-year milestone and am only one of only 1% of those diagnosed that survive a decade.
I’m married to Judi with two grown-up children, Nicholas and Saskia, love life, am a glass half full person and thank God every day for my survival. I was 49, fit and training for the 2012 London Marathon, ironically to raise money for Cancer Focus NI whey trouble hit.
My family life, career and everything else was right on track. Then bang. In 2011, I started feeling a bit off, had stomach pain which was extending into my back. At first the doctor diagnosed me has having an acidic tummy and gave me a prescription.
Then in 2011, I developed a horrible internal itch and on returning to the doctor I she noticed I was jaundiced and sent immediately to the Royal Victoria Hospital and was diagnosed on the 14th of November 2011 with pancreatic cancer with a tumour at the head of the pancreas.
It was felt I was suitable for what is called the Whipples procedure carried out in the Mater Hospital under the supervision of Mr Tom Diamond and a marvellous team in December, followed by eight months of chemotherapy. On April 2013, seven months after finishing chemotherapy, I completed the London Marathon and again in April 2014 in three hours 48 minutes raising £204,000 for cancer.
Three years later in Lithuania running a half marathon, I received a call from my consultant to tell me my blood readings were not good. This time there was no surgical solution. I had a 10% chance that chemo would slow down what had been found. Eight months later the tumours were not visible. Since then, I have ongoing check-ups every three months and thankfully all good so far. I’m forever thankful but never complacent.
Pancreatic Cancer is a major local health issue. Approximately 250 people are diagnosed with the condition in NI each year. The death rate is unacceptably high. We have one of the worst survival rates in the world – ranking 32nd out of 36 countries. Three out of five patients could have surgery to cure their pancreatic cancer but were diagnosed too late. I am living proof there is hope.
During World Pancreatic Cancer Month and especially leading to World Pancreatic Cancer Day 2021 on November 18th, NIPANC wanted to do something creative, a bit different that would bring this type of cancer’s signs and symptoms into sharp focus. In the coming weeks, we will be calling for necessary priority to be given to early diagnosis, for more research into the development of new and innovative treatments, and improved support for patients and families affected by the disease.
#TimeMatters if you are experiencing the following symptoms. Low mood or depression, yellowing of the skin or eyes, pain on eating/fullness, fatigue, upper abdominal pain, mid-back pain can radiate to stomach, indigestion, not responding to prescribed medicine, pale and smelly stools that don’t flush easily, diabetes, new onset not associated with weight gain, unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite.
Mark Taylor, Consultant HPB Surgeon, Consultant Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgeon and Northern Ireland Director, The Royal College of Surgeons of England and a strong supporter of NIPANC is supporting our campaign and backing our key messages.
Mark says: “Pancreatic Cancer is often termed ‘the silent killer’ as it often presents at a stage in which curative surgery is not possible. The more conversations and attention drawn to it the better both in terms of early symptom recognition and sharing of best practice.
“The #TimeMatters campaign is a great way to get people talking and to encourage an improved understanding of pancreatic cancer. We as surgeons and clinicians must continue to strive to gain a better understanding of the biology of this cancer and seek new therapies to improve the outcome for our patients.
“As Ivan approaches his 10-year anniversary, I want this to be a message of hope that cure is possible but requires early symptom recognition, timely surgical and oncological interventions and every effort to continue to fund essential research in to this silent killer.”
The campaign is live from today Monday, Nov 1st. To highlight the importance of time, we are asking you to share this post widely. We want to start conversations to stop people from having to go through what many of us in NIPANC have gone through.