Friends and family

Here you can read some of our friends and families stories in more detail.

Abi | Natalia

Abi

2018 was an extremely tough year for me and my family after my dad, aged 54, was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer in early March, and passed away in September that same year.   His diagnosis, in my opinion, did not happen quick enough. He started having pains in his stomach around December time, but knowing my dad it was probably before that! He never liked to make a fuss, but the pain got so bad, he wasn’t sleeping he was having time off work (very unlike him) and began to lose some weight. He had been back and forth to the doctors where they prescribed him antibiotics, and nothing was touching the sides. On one occasion mum drove him to A&E but again nothing was picked up or rang alarm bells.  

HOW?!   He was a very fit and healthy man, so it was very unlike my dad, and he didn’t go to the doctors often so we knew he must be in some pain. He was getting desperate with the pain, doubled over and really struggling, so he decided to go private to get to the bottom of what this was. After a consultation they thought it must be gall stones. We’d have been delighted with that news….   He was then sent off with a date for an ultrasound scan, but worry did start to kick in and we pushed for an earlier date. Mum ended up phoning around every single Nuffield around our area and managed to get a last-minute appointment in Oxford, so they rushed off there. Got him in for the scan, and on looking at it couldn’t find traces of gallstones, but something came up on that scan that triggered them to doing a CT scan. I think at this moment mum and dad knew, but my brother and I were none the wiser. They waited a few more hours for a CT scan slot. After having this he then went on to waiting 2 days for the results.  

A snowy day at the beginning of March and my mum who always answers her phone, hadn’t been in touch and panic started to kick in for my brother and I. we knew what time the appointment was and we were both waiting at the end of our mobiles hoping for a text to let us know it was a nasty infection.   We both received a text asking us to pop home when we finished work and at the moment, I knew this was going to be bad news.   They arrived home and broke us the devastating news that changed our lives forever. I couldn’t believe it, my dad was in tears telling us he had pancreatic cancer – I had never heard of it before, but all he said was as far as cancers go this one isn’t great.  

Another wait now until he saw the specialists about his next steps. These waits were unbearable, we’d all been through such a torrid time and my poor dad knew he had this cancer in him but was now made to wait for further investigation and to know where we go from here.   After seeing the specialist, we were told Dad’s tumour was wrapped around the major vein and they couldn’t operate straight away. It was to be the strong horrid chemotherapy to try and reduce this and get it to pull away from the vein so they could operate.   Chemo started over a month later, again not quick enough in my opinion – why are we having to wait for everything, we want the best chance so why are we not acting quickly??  

He had several rounds of chemo, several trips to hospital with all the side effects that come with the chemo. I just kept thinking my poor dad, why do we deserve this? Why him?   After seeing lots of consultants and getting second opinions and undergoing a lot of tests, in early August dad was granted the operation he desperately needed, it was now or never, the chemo wasn’t making enough of an impact. We were relieved he might finally get the chance to fight this thing off.  

August bank holiday and dad had the long and tough whipple operation, but after a number of post op problems too complex to explain he spent a month in critical care fighting for his life operation after operation, procedure after procedure, bad news after bad news. On 23rd September my dad passed away surrounded by his close family. Devastated and heartbroken just doesn’t begin to cut it.  

The anger, and pain I feel about this disease is still as strong as it was the day he was diagnosed. This silent deadly cancer has changed my life forever and I don’t think I will ever get over this. My dad really was the best person, he was my best friend as well as my dad. Coming from an extremely close family, it has seriously broken us, and anything I can do to help raise awareness I will grab with both hands.  

At dad’s funeral we raised over £4k for pancreatic cancer, plus another £6k at other events ran by friends and family. This is still ongoing!  

My boyfriend ran the marathon for Cancer Research and was training whilst dad was undergoing chemo, he passed away just before he ran it, but we raised nearly £7k doing this.   And I am currently training for a Macmillan charity flat horse race at York Racecourse and so far, I have raised over £10,500. I am passionate in particular about pancreatic cancer however the race had to be ran for Macmillan but I believe any support I can others is at least something.

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Natalia

In August of 2017 I was travelling home from London when I received a call from my mum who told me  she was worried as she had noticed the whites of her eyes had gone yellow and her skin was itching. I told her to take herself straight to A&E as I knew it could have been something serious and her being so worried made me panic. My mum.. Denise Lloyd, had a nursing background and was usually very calm but this had her distressed . On the train home I Googled what it could be and felt sick with worry, I knew that we could be facing something very serious with her liver or pancreas. 

Mum went to hospital and had tests done. I went back with her to her appointment a couple of weeks later where we would find out what was going on. We were giving the devastating news that she had pancreatic cancer and now they wanted to check if it had spread. To see her sobbing and filled with fear tore me apart. I kept trying to tell her we would fight this and she would be okay, we had to hold on to positivity. Telling our family was extremely difficult, I have 5 younger sisters and a brother, the youngest being just 11 at the time. The time in between appointments was hard, the waiting around felt like a life time and I can just remember seeing how frightened our mum was, her eyes were filled with fear. 

She went in to have a stent fitted to help drain some of the bilirubin and then we were told about the Whipple operation mum could have as the cancer had not spread anywhere else. Our mum was unbelievably strong even though she was frightened, she wanted to beat this, she wanted to live. She told me that she always imagined herself as an old lady surrounded by her grandchildren. She was just 53 years old, so young to have this disease. 

The Whipple is a huge operation and was very risky but she had no other option really, this seemed like the best way for her to overcome the cancer. On the 23rd September our mum had the Whipple operation, 11 hours of life saving surgery. Me and my sisters waited anxiously the whole day waiting for updates. Finally, late that night, we received the call that mum’s surgery had been a success, the cancer had not spread to surrounding tissue and they had removed it all. She was on the PICU ward in recovery. 

We went to visit her and it was very frightening to see her that way. She was unconscious with tubes and wires hooked up to machines, she looked very ill but we felt so happy the operation went as planned. We had said we were going to take pictures of mum on her cancer journey, I took one in the PICU ward and a light beam went through her body on the picture; which was strange as their were no windows or any reason for that to be there. We felt that this was a sign her guardian angel was with her. 

Mum was moved to another ward and spent the next 5 weeks in hospital recovering which was very difficult for her. We could see how down she was getting and how much pain she was in, we were all so worried but kept her spirits high as much as we could. We were there every day, and taking her grandchildren in made her day too. She grew stronger each day and she was determined to get home and begin the 2nd part of her treatment.

Mum came home in November and then had a couple of weeks before her chemo began, she was to have 6 rounds of chemotherapy at the Linda McCartney centre. She was very worried about having chemotherapy , as we all were, no-one knew what to expect or how ill she would be. 

Our granddad, our mums father, was an amazing support for our mum and went most weeks to chemo with her, as did my sisters. The chemo did make mum feel unwell and very fatigued and some weeks she was unable to have it, as her temperature was too high – which could be a sign that her body was fighting an infection.  Meanwhile, after Christmas our mum met Paul, he made her smile again and she would make plans with him and go on trips to visit different places around Wales and make memories. She seemed so happy to have a companion, it was someone who could provide her with support in a way that we, her children, couldn’t offer. I know mum bottled a lot of her feelings in, as she wanted to protect us from knowing how she felt; after all she was our mum and that’s a mum’s first instinct, to protect your babies. She had great, supportive friends too who were their for her every step of the way, she had a great circle of people around her who loved her. 

We all felt mum was beating the cancer. We were all delighted when she was coming to the end of her treatment and she was so confident and happy, she truly felt that this was her 2nd chance at living. On the 8th May, we all headed to the Linda McCartney centre with mum, she was to have her last chemotherapy treatment, and then she would be ringing the bell which signalled the end of her cancer journey. Finally she had beat this, she had won! It was the most emotional moment, watching our mum nervously, filled with excitement, ring the bell. She was so happy, she rang that bell and the whole ward cheered! We were all on cloud 9 – a nurse told her ‘now go and live the rest of your life‘ .

We all went out for food and visited the cathedral. We lit a candle and celebrated. Mum had her first Archers and danced the night away with Paul, her dad and her friends; finally our mum had done it, against all odds.

Just 7 weeks later our mum began to complain of pain in her side and we did notice her eyes looked a little yellow again. She had some tests at hospital but none showed the bilirubin to be high, which was strange.

She was then booked back in for a scan. After 9 weeks, we went in to have a meeting with her oncologist where we were told the cancer had come back quite aggressively at the operation site; had spread outside of the pancreas; and a spot was showing on her liver. Nothing could have prepared us to hear that and our poor mum just collapsed crying. How could we tell her it was going to be okay this time? I as in France at the time when this news was given and to hear everyone crying on the phone and not being able to be there was heartbreaking. I needed to be with my family. 

I was home 2 days later and we met up at our auntie’s home, mum was distraught but tried her best to smile. At the next appointment, discussions were about treatment and what they could offer her. The appointment was heartbreaking and wasn’t what we wanted to hear. Our mum could have chemotherapy to help prolong her life but she was given 6 months to live. We couldn’t believe after all she went though that this was happening, and now she had been given a death sentence. We all took it hard, emotions were running high and mum shut off for a while. She went off to Paul’s and needed time there. We found it difficult at the time being away from her and it did cause some upset; we wanted her with us, so we could help her and support her but looking back, mentally she must have needed time to herself. We can only imagine the thoughts and feelings going through her mind. Mum began to get sick quickly and the pain was increasing which meant her pain medication would leave her drowsy and she slept a lot. She came home after a few weeks and needed to have some time at Woodland’s Hospice, this was to help with pain medication management. She spent a few weeks there whilst the amazing nurses and team at Woodland’s treated her with so much dignity and respect. We had sleepovers with her at the hospice which was great.  Also, our sister Isabella told us she was having a baby in the November, something for mum to fight harder and longer for; an angel baby sent to help us through a dark time. 

She came home in the October but she was beginning to deteriorate now, I was so worried as I knew that things were going to get worse. It was distressing for us to know she was in a lot of pain too, no-one wants to see someone they love dearly suffer. She had chemo but wasn’t strong enough some weeks to continue with it. I could see in her eyes that she was getting tired and I felt she was becoming depressed. She wasn’t able to live her life as normal anymore and someone always had to be with her. She was a strong independent woman and the cancer was stripping her of everything. 

With Christmas coming up we wanted to spend it all together, so we had 17 of our closest family gather at my home for Christmas dinner. We were so happy that mum was able to come, although she had been very poorly the evening before but still put a smile on for everyone. We could see how unwell she was, she was very subdued and quiet off her medication. But still we had got to the 6 month mark and here she was, still fighting and having one last Christmas with us all . 

On the 27th December was when everything went down hill very quickly. Mum was taken to hospital as she became very unwell, and after a short time, she was moved to the palliative care ward. We nearly lost her in the January and had a priest at her bedside. She had got sepsis and her organs weren’t working properly, it looked like her body was shutting down. We spent agonising days around her bedside praying for her to pull through, and she did. She amazed us all and pulled through. Paul was her rock and didn’t leave her side, neither did our granddad and her children. We spent hours and days staying with her so she was never alone. We were told some conflicting news from doctors during her stay there, which was frustrating as it seemed at times they weren’t sure what was going on inside her body. 

We had realised that mum was never going to leave a hospital bed now and this was the beginning of the end, it was very difficult to watch, to sit by and watch your mum deteriorate in front of your eyes. It breaks my heart to know the pain and suffering she went though, to watch my baby sisters and brother hurting was hard, I wanted to protect everyone. My children came in to visit her a handful of times and she loved seeing them. The staff on the palliative care ward were amazing and I’m forever thankful for the care they gave her during this time. 

She was transferred to Woodland’s Hospice in the February which was where she wanted to go. We decorated her room with her favourite things and pictures of family were all over the walls. She was fighting and was still determined that she might come home for a short while some day. After a couple of weeks she began to sleep most of the days away; she was having really bad bouts of pain and wasn’t eating or drinking much. The weight fell off her and mentally she was confused. It was hard to see her like this, again no-one left her side: Paul, my granddad, and her children were all there, and her friends came in to see her. We all helped one another through the darkest of times. On the 18th March, we thought we were going to lose her. She had slipped in to a semi unconsciousness and still had severe pain at times, it was very distressing. She was so thin and her breathing had become laboured. 

For 2 days we were there around the clock, knowing that she could slip away at any moment. 

On Wednesday 20th March at 3.30 I received a phone call from my friend. She was with a spiritualist who had told her my mum’s spirit was with her and was needing help passing over. I found this comforting in a way, I knew my mum was no longer in her body, it was just a shell, and I wanted her to go, to be free from this pain and suffering. Every one of us knew it was her time now, to be away from this cruel world. At 9.25 pm, that evening, in the middle of a prayer with a priest whilst all holding hands, our beautiful strong mum passed away peacefully. The hardest day of our lives was saying goodbye. But she didn’t have to suffer any more. 

Her funeral was beautiful day surrounded by all who loved her , she had a beautiful send off . 

Our mum always wanted to visit Lourdes, but sadly she was never well enough to get there, we hope to spread some of her ashes there one day .

It’s now been 5 weeks and it still feels very raw, we’re all still numb most days but we have a good support network. I want to help raise awareness of this disease, there should be more done. If our mum had had another CT scan, when she finished her first round of chemotherapy treatment, we could have seen it coming back at an earlier stage. But due to hospital protocol, they don’t see the need for this. I did ask at the time and was dismissed from the oncologist, being told she was healthy and could go live her life, which is absurd considering it’s one of the worst cancers you can get. A scan should be done instantly before giving people false hope.

 I could be angry but I’m not, I’m disappointed. We also weren’t told that during her Whipple they had removed lymph nodes in her stomach where the cancer had spread, after being initially told it was nowhere else. We didn’t even get an apology for this, which my mum was very upset with at the time. We were also told twice it was in her liver and twice it was not; which was very distressing as they didn’t seem to know what was going on inside her body. Its been a journey of ups and downs, but overall, she did receive amazing care from the nurses and doctors. 

On Monday 29th our mum will be 55 years old, we will be meeting at Newsham Park cafe and walking in her memory, letting a balloon off to celebrate her heavenly birthday. We’re doing this for Pancreatic Cancer Action, and one of their volunteers, Shaun Walsh, who has also had pancreatic cancer. We hope our family, friends, and anyone who would like to help show support can make it. And we hope that there will be more testing available one day to help people living with this disease have a better chance of survival . 

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