By Maria Wilkinson
In June this year, we lost a much-loved family member to the ‘silent killer’ that is pancreatic cancer.
Christine Goodwin was my husband’s aunt. You often hear the term ‘full of life’ used for people and in Christine’s case it really was true. She was an absolutely lovely lady and she is dearly missed.
Despite it apparently being one of the less ‘common’ cancers, with just five per cent of total cancer deaths per year in the UK as a result, Christine was the third person I know to have died from this terrible disease in just 12 months.
To put that into context against deaths from other well know cancers in the UK, 22 per cent are from lung cancer, 10.3 per cent from bowel cancer, 7.7 per cent from breast cancer and 6.5 per cent from prostate cancer.
But the most shocking statistic I found is that pancreatic cancer has just a three per cent survival rate. Yes, you read that correctly – just three per cent. And that figure has not changed in 40 years.
Every single other type of cancer has seen an improvement in survival rates in the past 20 years.
Pancreatic cancer has seen no increase in survival rates in double that length of time. And that is a sobering and downright frightening fact.
The main reasons for such a poor prognosis are a lack of any developed screening system, the fact its symptoms can be similar to a host of other less serious conditions and it can often have no symptoms at all until it is too late.
And pancreatic cancer gets just a two per cent share of any research funding.
By the time most people start showing symptoms, the cancer has spread to other organs and there is nothing anybody can do.
Christine was just 54 when she died. Her mother had died from the same disease in 1982 at the age of 60.
Her only symptoms before being diagnosed and told she had only months to live were floating stools for a couple of months that doctor’s initially put down to her diabetes.
But the day after bonfire night, her skin suddenly turned yellow and doctor’s delivered the devastating blow that it was pancreatic cancer – and terminal.
Christine was told to go and ‘be with her family’ as there was nothing the medical profession could do.
With blood pressure problems and diabetes seeming to run in the family, her husband Tony is now worried for their son Dan, despite him currently enjoying perfect health.
That is why he has made a personal pledge to raise £10,000 for The Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund through his Just Giving page, www.justgiving.com/christinesandragoodwin.
It is also why my husband Chris Wilkinson and two friends will be riding 105 miles around Holyhead on the Isle of Anglesey in the Tour de Mon 2014.
He was a keen mountain-biker in his younger days (with most of our walks around Haughmond Hill these days usually becoming a tour of the bits he used to jump down – or off!) but endurance racing has never really been his thing.
Almost every evening over the past few weeks he’s either been in the garage on his turbo-trainer or eating up the miles of Shropshire and Staffordshire on his previously barely-used road racer.
He is so keen to finish the race that he asked me to put my moderate baking skills to use and come up with some homemade energy bars to keep him going on his way around.
He has even bought himself some professional cycling gear and was quite offended when I laughed at him in his new, super-padded shorts that are vaguely reminiscent of something Borat would wear (if fortunately much less revealing!).
Then a month ago, I found myself hospitalised with acute pancreatitis. It came on suddenly thanks to some new medication I had been put on for another chronic condition I suffer from.
It was something much less serious than pancreatic cancer and, thankfully, was easily treated and after a couple of days I was back home and recovering.
I later found out that Chris, while calm and supportive in my presence, had been worried sick.
He had even told his mother that he didn’t think he would cope if he had to go through what his Uncle Tony had.
Next time he put on his cycling gear after that, instead of laughing, I gave him a hug.
Christine passed away seven months after being diagnosed.
One of her biggest wishes before she died was to find out how Dan had done in his degree. She had wanted more than anything to have been here to see him graduate in his cap and gown this summer but it wasn’t to be.
However, she held on just long enough for Tony to pass on the news that their son had achieved a First Class Honours degree in Graphic Design and Illustration.
By donating anything you can to the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, one day we will be able to beat this evil disease.
Please visit www.justgiving.com/christinesandragoodwin if you can spare even the smallest amount.
For more information about the Tour de Mon, visit http://tourdemon.co.uk/.