Guest Blogger Ann Allan talks about the Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month event at Stormont on Monday November 2nd
As a blogger I’m always on the look out for a subject for my next blog. In my case it is usually something witty (hopefully) and the word ‘me’ or ‘I’ comes up quite a lot. As I lay in bed last night unable to sleep I was thinking about what I was going to write about for my next blog. It was going to involve what I’ve been doing over the last few days and it was probably going to feature me.
And then I thought about where I had been on Monday and I abandoned any idea of being witty and self-deprecating and decided to concentrate on the events of Monday afternoon.
I have to be honest and say I wasn’t looking forward to the event I was going to but I was going with my friend Olive and so that didn’t matter. She is great company and we can talk for hours. Olive collected me at 3 p.m. and we headed for Stormont. A car parking space had been pre booked so we didn’t have to drive around looking for a space.
After the formalities of getting though security we headed for the long hall. I admired Olive’s purple nails. They looked gorgeous.
We had arrived at the Northern Ireland launch of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. We were early and took our seats. Basil McCrea came and said hello and Joanne Dobson, who sponsored the event, arrived shortly after. The team from the Pancreatic Cancer UK, led by David Park and Michelle Penney, also arrived and after introducing themselves proceeded to set things up.
After an introduction by Joanne Dobson, Victoria Poole spoke about how she had recently lost her grandmother due to late diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. She explained that she now worked in PR and was using her skills to raise awareness of the condition and how the symptoms don’t always present themselves until it’s too late. Victoria has become a volunteer and spokesperson for Pancreatic Cancer UK in Northern Ireland. She thanked the large number of MLAs who turned out for the event. To give them their due, there were a large number present.
Next to speak was Gráinne O’Neill. Gráinne recently lost her mother, again due to pancreatic cancer. She talked poignantly about how herself and her siblings were dealing with the loss. Again she highlighted that late and misdiagnosis were contributing factors to her mother’s death.
And then it was Olive’s turn. Olive told a hushed audience how she had been recently diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. She had noticed no obvious symptoms and it was only when she went to her doctor when she noticed her skin becoming yellow that alarm bells began to ring. She listed the symptoms to look out for which can include: stomach pain, weight loss, yellow skin or eyes or itchy skin and oily, floating faeces
Pancreatic Cancer UK are campaigning for the Northern Ireland Public Health Agency’s ‘Be Cancer Aware’ campaign to publicise these danger signals.
Olive addressed those MLAs who are on Stormont’s Health Committee and in a position to influence policy about the use of drugs provided in NI. The availability of these drugs, she explained, could mean adding months to her life expectancy.
My admiration for Olive is immense. The strength it took to stand up and tell us her story was inspirational and I was so proud to be there.
Thanks to all the team from the UK who braved the weather to come to Belfast. After a very successful launch we headed out to the cool night air and as we gazed down over the city there seemed to be a purple glow dotted with the orange street lights.
If you would like more information or you would like some advice you can contact:
UK Support Line: Freephone 0808 801 0707
*Since I wrote this it has been announced that as of yesterday, the 4th November, the life extending drug Abraxane is no longer available in England (through the Cancer Drugs Fund) to newly eligible patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.
Download a copy of the Pancreatic Cancer UK Diagnonis Manifesto for Northern Ireland here:
All photos by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye courtesy of Pancreatic Cancer UK
Click here for a gallery of the Northern Ireland parliamentary reception