It’s official – I’m now one of the 3% who survive pancreatic cancer
Five years ago today, and at the age of 41, I was told the devastating news that I had a mass on my pancreas. Within days I knew that that mass was pancreatic cancer, a disease I personally had never heard of before. Soon, searches on the Internet revealed the terrifying extent of what I was facing and, although I was diagnosed in time for surgery, I really didn’t appreciate that this was my only hope of long-term survival.
The year I was diagnosed (2007), Steve Jobs announced the launch of the iPhone. Since then we have seen the start of economic decline with Black Monday in 2008, Barack Obama became the first African-American to be elected President of the United States, the Arab Spring began in earnest, the UK has a coalition government, Prince William married Kate Middleton, The Queen has celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, London successfully staged the Olympics and a space craft called Curiosity landed on Mars. Sadly the Apple Co-founder Steve Jobs passed away from pancreatic cancer just last year.
With such poor survival rates for pancreatic cancer, I found it almost impossible to believe I would be alive the Christmas following my diagnosis let alone still be here to witness the many changes our world has seen in the past five years.
What still hasn’t changed though is the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer, which stands at only three per cent. One-year survival has improved slightly but the UK figure is still under 20 per cent and one of the worst rates in Europe. And still, despite the fact that pancreatic cancer is the fifth biggest cancer killer in the UK, it receives only one per cent of research funding.
Over the past five years and through Pancreatic Cancer Action, I have had the pleasure of getting to know other pancreatic cancer patients. This is definitely the very best part of what I do but can often also be the hardest. Sadly not all of my new friends have had the outcome that I have had and many are no longer with us. Today, while I take time to reflect, I remember Helen, Michael, Nigel, Simon and Wendy and realise just how lucky I am.
But some of us do survive – take a look at our pancreatic cancer patient stories to see Paul, Cath, Cliff, Ron and many others. These stories should give hope to others facing their own diagnosis for pancreatic cancer.
And how will I celebrate? Well of course I will be raising a glass tonight to my excellent medical team but also to my wonderful (& long-suffering!) husband and my two boys who have supported me throughout. However, this morning when I took my early morning walk with my dogs I didn’t rush around to get the task done before getting into the office. Today I took time to take in the beauty of the scenery – watching the mist rising above the purple heather-clad hills, to breathe in the fresh air and to take a moment or two to appreciate the fact that I am still alive. Not only am I alive, but I have never felt better.
Through Pancreatic Cancer Action, I am determined that things will improve and that in the future many more people will be celebrating their own five-year survival of pancreatic cancer.
I would like to thank everyone who has supported me these past five years.
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