Hi, I’m Dennis. I’m not telling you my age but I was 61 when I diagnosed with pancreatic cancer back in 2007, so you do the maths. I fell ill and was jaundiced (went yellow) whilst on holiday in Spain. I was a little concerned so I went to see my GP when I got home. After a number of diagnostic tests, my GP informed me that I had cancer of the pancreas, it was devastating news but I tried to stay strong and chose to be treated at the Royal Liverpool Hospital.
I knew I had to get through it for my family, everyone was in shock and our emotions ranged from anger to uncontrollable worrying. Eventually my determination came through and I had the motto, “whatever it takes to recover.”
I had my major operation in October 2007 and was in hospital for 12 days, this was a scary time for both me and my family but each day I was getting stronger, so I knew I was in safe hands.
I knew the recovery process would be a long one but I tried to keep a positive attitude throughout, I also asked lots of questions about my cancer and the different treatment paths available as I wanted to know I was making the right choices. I used to monitor my own recovery by trying to walk a little further every day, using the chairs in the corridor to rest when I was tired and trying to walk to the next chair each time. People would always ask me how I was coping and I described my attitude as “facing the devil”.
I have so many people to thank for helping save my life; I had tremendous support from my wife, and the medical staff at the Royal were also fantastic. I must have driven them crazy but they always had a smile on their faces. After my treatment I went onto a clinical trial and also found the Liverpool Cancer Trials Unit team to be extremely helpful and supportive.
The most beneficial way I could think of to say thank you was to return to the hospital to volunteer in various ways, helping out other patients and carers. I’m now Chair of the Liverpool Cancer Trial Unit Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Steering Committee, the network Hepatiabliary/Pancreatic Clinical Network Group (as a patient representative) and a member of the Royal Liverpool Patients Council; this has kept me very busy and helped me stay positive.
If I could give people any advice, it would be...
- See your doctor immediately if you feel something is not quite right with your health
- Be persistent
- Talk openly about your illness. Statistics are only figures, not people
- Treat cancer as an illness that can be overcome, controlled and cured
- Alter your lifestyle as necessary to improve your recovery
These are my messages for Action on Cancer...
- Prevention is better than cure, balance your lifestyle correctly to reduce your chances of illness
- Do not ignore the signs of illness, act quickly and decisively
- Do not hide away, be open and talk about your illness to others
- Look for a clinical trial to join
- Listen and learn from your medical team and do what they advise
Pancreatic Cancer facts...
- In 2009, 8,364 people in the UK were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer
- In 2005-2009, around 4% of people in England survived their pancreatic cancer for five years or more
- Around 36% of pancreatic cancers in men and 39% in women are linked to lifestyle factors
- Around 29% of pancreatic cancers in the UK in 2010 were caused by smoking