Telling my five children that I had pancreatic cancer and wouldn’t make my 70th birthday was the most excruciatingly painful thing I have ever done. I was mostly matter-of-fact, blunt and brief – “I have been diagnosed with cancer, pancreatic cancer and I don’t have long to live,” was how I began. Then I struggled to hold it together as I absorbed the disbelief, shock and grief of their responses.
I told them that I only had a few years to live, but I actually had no idea how long I had because I hadn’t googled it. The following day I learned that my children googled it later that same evening and confronted the truth before I did. We all found the same statistic – 75% of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer die within a year.
All I thought I knew about pancreatic cancer was that it began silently, and by the time you had symptoms it was too late to do anything about the painful death that you faced. Pancreatic cancer was among the worst of the cancers, if not the worst.
Meanwhile, having briefly abandoned the public health system to get an ultrasound scan followed by a CT scan the next day in the private sector, Dr G referred me into the public health system, namely the Auckland DHB cancer services.