Awareness Month activities in Northern Ireland

Special Pancreatic Cancer Action Recognition Awards Kerry Irvine (left) and Maggie Watts

It’s been a busy month for raising awareness of pancreatic cancer in Northern Ireland. Firstly, Kerry Irvine, our hard-working and dedicated Regional Rep held a Purple Starlight Party of Hope on 1st November – an annual event in memory of her husband Noel who died from pancreatic cancer in 2011. We were delighted to award Kerry along with Maggie Watts with one of our ‘Special Recognition Awards’ at that event for their hard work raising funds and awareness of pancreatic cancer.

Kerry used that event to launch the Pancreatic Cancer Action: Action4Noel Fund – a fund restricted to the provision of pancreatic cancer project spend in Northern Ireland.

On 3rd November, Kerry and her MLA, Tom Buchanan succeeded in getting a debate on pancreatic cancer in the Northern Ireland Assembly. A copy of the transcript of the debate can be found here: http://aims.niassembly.gov.uk/officialreport/report.aspx?&eveDate=2014/11/03&docID=211611

Stormont Long Gallery Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Event 2014
L to R Mr Ivan McMinn (Patient), Mr Jim Wells, Health Minister, Ali Stunt PCA, Mr William Humphry, MLA North Belfast & Mr Tom Buchanan, MLA (Sponsor of event)

On Monday 24th November we held an event in the Long Gallery, Stormont to raise the profile of pancreatic cancer among MLAs and MPs in Northern Ireland. An open-door event, MLAs from across the region paid us a visit to view our awareness displays and to discuss with us in detail the issues surrounding pancreatic cancer. Most were shocked to hear of the grim statistics and the fact that in 2012, 244 people were newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and 243 people died of the disease in Northern Ireland. They were also interested to hear that out of over 1200 GPs, only 56 had taken Pancreatic Cancer Action’s e-learning module “Diagnosing Pancreatic Cancer in Primary Care.”

We were delighted with the turnout which included the Northern Ireland Health Minister, Jim Wells. Mr Ross Hussey, UUP West Tyrone even walked away with one of our large blown-up symptoms posters to display in his constituency office window!

Our thanks to Mr Tom Buchanan, MLA who sponsored the event and to Adele Crawford who has helped us immensely over the past few months.

During the evening of 24th November, we along with families affected by pancreatic cancer were invited to a reception held by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Nichola Mallen at City Hall. Ms Mallen took time out to chat to the families and listened intently to their stories. One family told of their relative who was diagnosed in August this year and died only 17 days later!

Lady Mayor of Belfast holds reception to mark Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month
Lady Mayor of Belfast holds reception to mark Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month
NI Mayoral event 24 11 2014
Greeting families affected by pancreatic cancer
Ali Stunt CEO Pancreatic Cancer Action greets Lady Mayor
Ali Stunt CEO Pancreatic Cancer Action greets Lady Mayor

When everyone stepped outside following the Mayor’s Reception, we could see that Belfast City Hall was lit up purple as part of our #turnitpurple campaign – it was a spectacular sight!

City Hall Belfast in purple
Belfast City Hall turns purple for pancreatic cancer awareness month

I’d like to thank Kerry Irvine for being the driving force behind all these activities.  Her tireless public and parliamentary campaigning is giving pancreatic cancer a much higher profile in Northern Ireland.  It is also with the generous support of  MLA Tom Buchanan that Kerry and others have been able to to arrange the events that took place in Stormont.

A huge thank you also to all those MLAs, MPs and public health officials who attended the events in Stormont and also members of the public who supported all the activities that took place in November, and for their support in the fight against pancreatic cancer.