November is a busy month: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month); NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month); Movember; Picture Book Month; Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, World Vegan Month…
Which of these am I going to write about? Surprisingly, not Picture Book Month, although it sounds very me. Nor NaNoBloMo, although I seem to have accidentally planned a post a day for the next two weeks at least…
At this time of year, Pancreatic Cancer is foremost on my mind and always will be.
Two years ago, my dad was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. He was in hospital for pains, he’d been there ten days and they’d originally thought gallstones but that was negative so there were more tests…
Friday 5th November. I was home looking after my daughters while Mr Chaos was out. It was evening, the girls were asleep. The phone rang, it was my brother.
It’s cancer. It’s terminal. He might have two years, we don’t know. He could be fine for two years… But there’s no cure, this is it…
After the phone call, I googled Pancreatic Cancer. Average life expectancy after diagnosis is three to six months. Months. Not years, months.
Five-year survival rate is 3-6%. At least 94% of people diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer die within five years of diagnosis.
The statistics are horrendous.
I saw lists of people who have died from it including famously Dennis Potter; Patrick Swayze; more recently Steve Jobs. I remember seeing Dennis Potter being interviewed shortly before his death, seeing how much pain he was in.
On 2nd December 2010, twenty-seven days after being diagnosed, my dad passed away with three of his five children surrounding him. My eldest brother and I were in England and couldn’t make it to Ireland in time.
Twenty-seven days. That’s all he had from diagnosis. That’s all the time we had to get used to the idea. He was 75. He wasn’t young. He’d had a good life. Five children, eight grandchildren. It was still too soon. It’s always too soon.
I last saw him eight days before he died because we were in Ireland for my youngest nephew’s Christening. MG and DG were almost-four and eighteen months old. They bounced around him in the lounge of the nursing home. We were the only ones there, we spent time together before he was too tired, and my daughters got some time with him. His skin was yellow, he looked so ill. I knew it would be the last time I would see him alive but tried not to think of that. I didn’t know it would be the last time I would speak to him.
He was in pain but hid it. His cancer was too far gone for any intervention but he wanted to make it six months for the sake of his youngest grandson (four months old at the time). He said he wasn’t giving up, he could still wash himself!
Four days after I last saw him he slipped into an unresponsive state and my family, all of us, waited for the inevitable. My siblings and I lost a father; my daughters and their cousins lost a grandfather. It was too soon.
This November, remember Pancreatic Cancer and help spread awareness any way you can.