Tribute to Norman Whitwood, a truly remarkable and inspirational man

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Norman WhitwoodWe are extremely sad to hear that Norman Whitwood, Pancreatic Cancer Action supporter and friend, passed away on 24th October 2018 after a 6 year battle with pancreatic cancer. This blog pays tribute to a truly remarkable and inspirational man who did so much to help others, including running a marathon age 71 to raise funds and writing blogs to help others going through a similar diagnosis.
Sophie, Norman’s daughter, shared the sad news with us, saying: “He died at home as he wanted, peacefully with his partner by his side. He was able to meet both his grandsons – Jenni gave birth in June and me a week before he passed.I know he was well known at the charity and had been in contact with Ali on a number of occasions. The support he received from the charity was incredible and he was so grateful for it.”

Norman’s story 

Norman Whitwood, from Wheathampstead, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in May 2012, age 68. He had been running for three years when he suddenly started to feel unwell and didn’t feel like running anymore. This was unusual for him. Later he realised that he was experiencing symptoms of pancreatic cancer: vague weariness, loss of appetite, constipation and yellow stools. He also went on to notice that he was also losing weight fast and turning yellow. 

Norman was diagnosed early and was able to have surgery (whipples). He said: “Being slim and fit made an enormous difference. Largely as a result, the operation was ‘very simple and straightforward, with no transfusion required’. I made a steady recovery and started walking then running after a couple of months.” Click here to read more of Norman’s story. 

Since his diagnosis Norman and his daughters, Jenni Kelly and Sophie Johnston, have supported Pancreatic Cancer Action by fundraising and raising awareness. 

Running with pancreatic cancer

Norman continued to run and completed the Herts 10K just a year after his diagnosis and the Silverstone half-marathon in 2014. He was on track to run a full marathon but unfortunately suffered an internal bleed as a result of the operation and had to put training on hold.

This did not put Norman off running and after recovering he returned to training and took on the Milton Keynes Marathon with his running club, the Harpened Arrows in 2015 – age 71! Norman raised over £2,300 for PCA and his inspirational journey made headlines.

Keen to share his experiences to help others, Norman wrote a blog for us to share called ‘Running with Pancreatic Cancer’. If you are looking for inspiration to make a change and get running then I would really recommend reading this blog, you can read it here.

Norman says: “You are still you. You still have a life, so what can you achieve? How about making that walk to the shops a daily mission. When you have done that for a month why not come back the long way?…Hopefully, those whom you know and love will not suffer from a life-threatening crisis. But they will look at you and start to believe that if you can take your life by the throat and shake the best out of it, then they can too.”

Staying calm with pancreatic cancer 

As well as running, Norman also used mediation to help him through his diagnosis and recovery. He started meditating in his late fifties saying “it’s never too late to try something new”. It appealed to him because it is based on the idea that we can all achieve a deeply calm state and let go, in a natural human way. The process encouraged him to be realistic and make the most of his time “useful objectives when you have had or living with a life-threatening disease!”

He goes on to say: “If you have cancer it’s no surprise that you feel a little uptight. Cancer leaves you feeling negative and worried and, after surgery, sore and uncomfortable. Chemo and radiotherapy just makes matters worse, just when you are feeling a little better! Meditation offers a means to fight back, using the massively underestimated power of your mind. Whether you have just been diagnosed or you are waiting to know what happens next, or recovering after treatment, try this.”

Click here to read Norman’s blog about meditation. If you are in need of a bit of guidance on staying calm, whatever your situation, Norman’s blog is the perfect read: honest and helpful.

Not forgotten

Norman will not be forgotten, we will always admire his strength and courage and he will continue to give hope and inspire others through his words. Norman will truly be missed by everyone at PCA and our thoughts are with all his friends and family. x


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