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Health Minister backs pancreatic cancer charity Stormont launch

Health Minister backs pancreatic cancer charity Stormont launch

10 February 2014

February 10 2014 is a momentous date for Susan Cooke, a nurse from Dollingstown, Co Down. Not only is it the first anniversary of her husband’s death from pancreatic cancer, but it’s also the day she launched the Northern Ireland Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund supporters’ group at Stormont – an event which has been backed by Health Minister Edwin Poots.

Launch at Stormont of NI PCRF supporters groupSusan’s husband, Colin, was 45 when he died, just 11 weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Having co-founded and led First Moira Scouts for 18 years, as well as working full-time in Boots in Moira, Colin was well-known and respected in the communities of Lurgan, where he grew up, Moira, and in Dollingstown where he lived with Susan and their two sons Adam, 20 and Aaron, 4.

“We had so little time between Colin’s diagnosis and death; it was very hard to accept that such a fit man could die so quickly, and even more shocking to know there is no effective treatment,” said Susan. “That’s why the work of the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund is so important – the charity funds world leading research to find an early diagnosis tool and hopefully, eventually, a cure.”

Having organised a fundraising event for the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund (PCRF) in Moira last July, Susan was put in touch with other Northern Irish PCRF supporters via the charity’s founder and CEO, Maggie Blanks, whose own husband died of the disease. “I wanted to continue fundraising to raise the profile of pancreatic cancer in Northern Ireland, as I felt that it was not well-known,” said Susan. “Joining forces with other local supporters means we can organise bigger events and get more impact from our fundraising activities.”

Speaking at the event alongside Health Minister Edwin Poots, Maggie Blanks and Susan Cooke is Mr Mark Taylor, Consultant General and Hepatobiliary Surgeon at Belfast’s Mater Hospital, who said: “Patients with pancreatic cancer usually present at an advanced stage when surgery is not possible. I would like to be in the position of diagnosing this cancer early so that surgery, which is the only chance for cure, can be performed. PCRF is supporting many areas of research in pancreatic cancer including the development of diagnostic tools for earlier detection. I fully support the formation of a Northern Ireland Supporters Group for this dynamic charity.”

The Minister said: “I am delighted to welcome Maggie and Susan to Parliament Buildings on what is probably a day of mixed emotions. We are here today to officially launch the NI Branch of PCRF supporters whose members work tirelessly throughout the UK in raising funds for research into pancreatic cancer. But it is also the first anniversary of Susan’s husband Colin’s untimely death from the disease. I commend Susan for all her efforts in raising public and political awareness of pancreatic cancer at a local level and wish the PCRF every success in their fund raising efforts which has the real potential to benefit pancreatic cancer sufferers throughout Northern Ireland.”

Maggie Blanks said: “It’s fantastic that the charity has supporters as proactive and enthusiastic as Susan in helping to galvanise public and political support for more research. We have a large number of supporters in Northern Ireland and their hard work is directly funding world class research that will change the lives of those people whose chances of survival are currently the bleakest of all. This is something to be extremely proud of.”

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