We Lost Our Parents to Pancreatic Cancer: Raising Awareness

Posted by: on Aug 17, 2013 | 2 Comments

Gossipdrip is raising awareness for pancreatic cancer, the 5th leading cause of UK cancer death with the worst survival rate of all cancers. Despite the statistics, pancreatic cancer only receives around 1% of research spend, something we’re desperate to change.

Gossipdrip’s editor Zara Zubeidi lost her mother to pancreatic cancer a year ago this week. Florence Christie, a contributor, lost her father to the dreadful disease when she was just eight.

Read the accounts below and decide for yourselves whether this “silent killer” deserves your full attention and signature on the petition: Providing more Funding & Awareness for Pancreatic Cancer.

Together, we can campaign for earlier detection and more importantly, improve survival rates for pancreatic cancer.

Even Union J have joined in to support the cause!

Florence Christie

I was eight years old when my daddy passed away from pancreatic cancer. We were living in Malaysia at the time and had travelled back to the U.K for a summer holiday.  He had been in and out of hospital throughout the year complaining of severe stomach pain and the response of the doctors each time was that it was nothing to worry about and with due time everything would sort itself out. However, we had barely unpacked our suitcases when my father was admitted straight into hospital and this time the outlook was much bleaker. Within a month of returning back to Malaysia, my daddy had passed away.

 After loads of test and examinations, we were informed that my father had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. This was the first time ever I had seen my mother- a normally headstrong and fiercely independent woman, appear afraid. I knew something was wrong and I remember asking her whether my father was going to die, with her response simply being “I don’t know.” From the day that my father was diagnosed my whole life changed before my eyes. We were whisked back to the U.K on a first class flight, registered at new schools and travelling up and down the country to visit my father in hospital. It was the first time and only time that we had flown first class but what should have been a wonderful experience was tainted by the uncertainty of my father’s condition. Just a couple of weeks earlier, we had undergone the exact same journey albeit under different circumstances bursting with excitement about our summer in Europe. This time, the return to England was not as sweet. My father spent the flight in agony and being so little and unable to help him, me and my sister spent the whole flight in confusion. I might have been young at the time, but I remember knowing that once that flight hit Heathrow airport, my life was going to be very different and it has not been the same since.

On diagnosis my father was informed that he had a 10% chance of surviving. I can’t tell you how much at eight years old that 10% meant to me-it meant everything. When you are young, it easier to hang on to glimmers of hope- miracles appear to be an everyday reality. I thought my daddy would have Chemotherapy and get better- that’s what happened in the films after all, but he didn’t get better and in three weeks he had passed away. At the time in which my father was diagnosed the only option was chemo, it was too dangerous to operate and if this had been an option, the disease had spread too far for it to do any real help.  I didn’t know then how much of an effect the chemo would have on my father- it drowned him of all his energy making it very difficult for him to fight the disease head on. The man who I had idolised throughout my life began to lose his fight and it wasn’t long before the disease took a real hold of him.

I always say that I lost my daddy the day that he was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. From that day he was never the same person. You could see him trying with all his power to fight but with the disease at such a late stage, it is no wonder that he struggled. Those three weeks changed my life forever but in researching into the disease when I was older what frustrates and upsets me most, is not that I lost my father but that with early detection this could all have been avoided. With early detection, my family of four could still be complete. With early detection the past ten years could have been completely different.

This is a disease that is not talked about. People do not know the symptoms and it is an illness that is not easily detected by doctors. Something needs to be done to educate and inform the public about pancreatic cancer so that people have a better chance of surviving and standing up to cancer in the future.  A change needs to happen and that change needs to occur today. By simply signing this petition, you can make sure that there is increased research into Pancreatic Cancer, enabling early detection and ensuring that PC can no longer be branded the “silent killer”.

Zara Zubeidi

Mum lost her battle to pancreatic cancer just nine months after being diagnosed, at the age of 53. Having attended Italia Conti stage school with dreams of being the next Kim Wilde, mum lit up every room she walked in to and had a whole scrapbook of newspaper cuttings to prove it. Even a couple of months before her passing, mum was strutting down the hospice corridor in her new shoes, wig and new dress to show off to the nurses.  Nobody could ever imagine such a strong and vibrant personality being here one day, and then gone forever.

Mum refused to let pancreatic cancer beat her. She went on holiday just two weeks before she passed away. She was far more concerned about those around her and how they were to cope should things get worse.

With her youngest just nine years old, mum’s main concern was her children’s wellbeing. We didn’t tell my little brother about mum’s illness until the later stages of her cancer, and even then we always discussed doctors ‘trying to make mummy better’ and didn’t admit the true scale of the situation. In her left few days with us, I told mum that I’d look after everybody and that she was the best mother in the world.

When she passed away, my main concern was to help my brother to understand what had happened, and more importantly, that our mum was very much still with us in spirit. As mum even wrote in her diary leading up to her death, ‘when someone dies, they have already gone to heaven, it’s just their parts that don’t matter so much that are left’. I explained this to my brother and told him that mum would be with us whenever we needed her. Because I was her only daughter, I almost felt an obligation to take on her maternal role and make sure that he was okay.

The first few days following mum’s death were surreal. If anything, they came as a surprise, because rather than feeling dreadful, I felt an odd sense of relief that mum was no longer in pain. Mum had always been the strongest person I had known, and I hated to see her deteriorating over the last few days.

I coped by busying both myself and the family to organise the funeral, making sure that my little brother had a part by choosing the colour flowers that mum would like best. I didn’t want to leave everything to my older brothers and stepdad, as mum would have wanted us to all have contributed in our own special way. We would even bury her with letters from us to make sure that nothing was left unsaid, and that our words would always be with her.

I wanted mum to have the best send off she could possibly have, so I made sure that I had a say in what music would be played, hymns that would be sung and more importantly, what would be said. Deciding to read at the funeral was the hardest decision I ever had to make, but I knew that mum would be watching over me, proud of her (once shy!) little girl.

The funeral itself was perfect. It turned out to be the hottest day of the summer (a sign from mum that we had done well) and so many people had turned up to pay their respects to a woman who had touched the hearts of everybody she had met. After managing to get through my speech, I found the day more of a celebration of mum’s life by her favourite people, rather than a day we had previously dreaded.

I’d say the weeks following the funeral were even stranger than beforehand. Whilst a sense of closure had been put on mum’s death, I found it impossible to accept the fact that I could no longer text her about the little things that we had always chatted about (what did she think about James Arthur?! Could I really afford those shoes?!). Our bond was so strong; we never argued and I would phone my mum for advice for literally everything. The frustration soon led me to doubt that I could carry on with my studies.

But you do, slowly learn to accept help from those who love you. I grew closer to my family more than ever and my boyfriend became my rock. Whilst I’d put on a brave face in class, I would uncontrollably cry into my boyfriend’s arms at the weekends. But as time went on, things became easier. I realised that I wanted to do anything I could to keep mum’s memory alive, for both my own sake and my family’s. Today, I always think ‘what would mum do?’ before making a decision and continue to hold the family together as she would have wanted.

This week, I found a poem that mum had written me during a primary school trip away. She wrote:

‘Just remember, and always be the kind of person you’d want to see. Love you so much my darling. See you soon, and have a wonderful time.’

I felt truly blessed to have a message from mum that I could so relate to nearly a year on without her. She would have wanted me to enjoy life and not to dwell on her death.  It’s easier said than done, of course, but when somebody you love leaves behind a wealth of beautiful memories, it helps to try and follow in their footsteps and be positive. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to talk to somebody about the way you’re feeling or to have a good cry every now and then. For me, writing down what happened served as an almost healing process and a way to accept what had happened.

A mother’s love truly in unconditional, and will continue to live through her children in the lessons they’ve been taught by her along the way.

To sign the petition, click here.

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