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Barn dance to raise profile of underfunded cancer

23 November 2011

A woman from Goodrington in Paignton is campaigning for more awareness of the deadliest cancer – pancreatic cancer – after losing her husband to the disease earlier this year

A woman from Goodrington in Paignton is campaigning for more awareness of the deadliest cancer – pancreatic cancer  – after losing her husband to the disease earlier this year.

Jean Pizey hopes to raise £2,000 for the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund (PCRF) from a barn dance in memory of her husband John, who died on 25 March, aged 67, just eight weeks after his diagnosis. 

“John went to the doctors about a pain in his upper abdomen and was sent home with painkillers but they didn’t help,” says Jean. “When he made another appointment a fortnight later, I asked if he wanted me to go with him and to my surprise, he said yes, which was very unusual for him. I think this was the first time I realised that he was really worried and that he suspected that something was very wrong.”

His fears were justified. A different doctor examined him thoroughly and referred him to Torbay Hospital, where a CT scan confirmed that he had pancreatic cancer which had already spread to his liver. Unusually for people suffering from pancreatic cancer, John had been diagnosed quickly - but not early enough for surgery - and his condition was terminal.

“The consultant took John’s hand and told him that he had a year, at best, to live,” says Jean.

John had a friend who had died of pancreatic cancer the year before so he was aware how aggressive this cancer is. He told Jean “I’ll fight this while I can, and when I can’t, you’ve got to promise to let me go.”

Although John was determined to die at home, he deteriorated rapidly and at one of his hospital appointments, he agreed to be admitted so that the doctors could help manage his condition.

Jean says: “The staff on the Turner Ward at Torbay Hospital were wonderful.  It was a great comfort to have such kind, professional staff caring for his physical needs  – much better than we could have done at home. This meant we could concentrate on simply being with him for the time he had left.”  John died two days later with Jean and her two sons at his bedside.

Jean was shocked and angry to discover that despite having the worst survival rates of any common cancer, with only 3 out of every 100 people surviving for 5 years,  pancreatic cancer receives less than 2% overall research funding. 

The barn dance will be held at St George’s Hall in Goodrington on Saturday 26 November, with local Ceilidh band the Barnacles.  John’s best friend, David Ewing, will be compering the event.

 “It felt right to hold the barn dance in November as it’s Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month,” says Jean. “It’s going to be really fun evening and a lovely way for us all to get together in John’s memory. I know barn dancing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – and in fact a few friends have paid not to come, which John would have found hilarious.”

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