“We can’t go back and say ‘what if’ because that’s just too heart-breaking really. Pete’s another one that’s missed in this big pattern of pancreatic cancer.”
“Pete was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when he was 69. Prior to that, he'd never smoked, he grew organic fruit and vegetables, and he was pretty fit. When he started getting aches and pains, he initially put it down to age. There’s a nine-year age gap between us, and I’d say, ‘What’s the matter with you?’ and he’d say, ‘You wait till you are my age’. But the pain got worse in the middle of his back."
“We went on holiday, and he wasn’t his usual self. He came back quite tanned and that was the first problem because one of the symptoms is jaundice, but the tan hid that. Pete got more and more uncomfortable, so he went to see the doctor. The doctor took his blood sugars on three separate blood sugar monitors. The doctor kept saying the ‘battery must be wrong; the battery must be wrong’ because the blood sugar level on the little testing kit in the GP’s office was off the scale. There were one or two family members that had type 1 diabetes diagnosed at a young age on Pete’s side of the family, so they diagnosed him with diabetes, end of story.
“But then Pete had increasing levels of pain, was more and more tired and had extreme weight loss. His doctor sent him for an endoscopy, and it was all clear. When he went for the endoscopy a junior nurse said, ‘Are the whites of his eyes normally yellow?’. I hadn’t noticed that because he’d got a tan. She then referred him to the consultant. I’d googled a lot of his symptoms, and I kept thinking ‘No it can’t be pancreatic cancer because that is awful, and it can’t be that. It must be something else; he’s too fit.’
“We had a CT scan that we paid for, and it showed a tumour. The consultant told us it was operable, and Pete would get the Whipple procedure. I had never heard of the word Whipple, so I was googling it terrified. Eventually, after many months, he finally got to have his Whipple operation. He eventually got it just within the allowed timeframe. But in that waiting time, I’m pretty convinced that the tumour had wrapped around an artery. During the operation, they opened him up and shut him up again and said, ‘We can’t do it’.
“The doctors offered chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Pete went down the chemo route initially. He was quite a strong-minded man, and he hated the whole regime of chemo. After one block, he made the decision, without consulting me so it was quite hard, that he was not going to have any more chemo. He asked the consultant in front of me how long the chemo would give him, and the consultant didn’t give him the answer he wanted so he declined any further chemo. On reflection, it was the right choice because he had a good summer without chemo because it was only going to give him an extra three or four months.
“The initial diagnosis of diabetes held everything up. I can’t blame anyone but that’s what it was. It held it all up for three months. The hospital was prioritising kidney transplants and there was Christmas and New Year, so his Whipple operation was held up. We didn’t have the money to go private and by the time he finally got his Whipple, it was too late.
“We miss Pete dreadfully. We are a big family, a close family – I’m lucky in that. Pete was a very brave man, full of life and it was cut off in his prime basically just after we’d got enough money to do what we wanted to do. Luckily, we had done some travelling but we had so much ahead of us. Our Grandchildren are growing up and they all remember him and miss him. He is so missed by all of us.”