November marks Pancreatic & Stomach Cancer Awareness Month, which statistically has some of the lowest survival rates out of all the major cancers.
With over 12,000 Australians diagnosed per year, more than 8,000 with die. On average only 20% of those diagnosed will survive 5 years.
I know first-hand how devastating this disease can be, after losing my dad to Bile Duct Cancer in December 2016.
On a fishing trip with mates in June 2015 for his 60th birthday, Dad began to feel unwell. For those of you reading that knew my dad, he very much enjoyed a beer, so to him, not feeling like having one meant he must be a little bit off. He went to see his GP, who initially thought he had pneumonia, so ran scans and blood tests. The results came back indicating there was something wrong and that’s when things started to get real.
Dad was referred to Dr Mehrdad Nikfarjam, who is also the founder of Pancare Foundation, who was confident Dad had Bile Duct Cancer. Unfortunately, a confirmed diagnosis couldn’t be made for several months due to the complexities and difficult access to the area.
Often referred to as ‘silent cancers’, Upper Gastrointestinal Cancers are very hard to detect in their early stages as there are little to no symptoms.
After months of Countless biopsies, a continued lack of appetite and extensive weight loss continued, and I remember thinking to myself, “this can’t be happening, Dad was always the strong one.”
In June 2016, Dad was still extremely unwell, so the decision to remove his Gallbladder was made in a last-ditch attempt to eliminate any other possibility of illness. Following the procedure Dr Nikfarjam confirmed the heartbreaking diagnosis of stage four Bile Duct Cancer. His voice forever etched into my mind, “Geoff, we have found cancer in your Bile Duct”.
Dad was a fighter, so an intense treatment of Chemotherapy followed for a few months. For those of you that don’t know how chemotherapy works, it not only attacks the cancerous cells but the healthy cells as well. By this stage Dad had lost around 35-40 kgs, his body was slowly losing the battle. This was the single most difficult couple of months for our family.
4 weeks before Dad passed, it was decided that all treatment would cease, and it was about being comfortable for whatever time was left. Just after midday on December 20, Dad called me at work and asked if I could come to see him. I left work immediately as Dad’s condition had significantly deteriorated. I remember him saying to me “I don’t want your mother to find me”, so he was moved to palliative care the following day.
The date, December 21st,2016, is imprinted in my memory for all the wrong reasons. This was the day my mate, my mentor, my dad lost his fight with Bile Duct Cancer.
Selfishly, we didn’t want it to be the end but deep down I think there was somewhat a feeling of relief.
I am honoured to work for Advent Security, who is committed to Pancare Foundation’s mission to educate us all about the signs and symptoms of pancreatic and stomach cancers, as well as improving the lives of patients, carers and families suffering with this awful disease.
The work Doug, James and the team at Pancare Foundation do in the Upper Gastrointestinal Cancer space is simply amazing and we at Advent Security are wanting to assist in any way we can in the attempt to rid the world of this debilitating disease.
You can help by donating to the Pancare Foundation, which will allow them to continue to support medical cancer research that aims to accelerate advancement in early detection, new treatments, enhanced patient care and clinical trials that help improve outcomes for Australians impacted by upper gastrointestinal cancers.
If you would like to know more and see the fantastic work the Pancare Foundation is doing, click the below link: