Thursday marks World Pancreatic Cancer Day and, for Andy Jarvis, it will be a time to reflect and feel thankful.
The Inverness-born oil rig worker has passed the five-year survival rate of pancreatic cancer, after receiving a diagnosis in 2013.
Of all the major cancers, pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rates and these numbers have barely changed in the last five decades.
Andy, whose father-in-law died last year less than 24 hours after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, said: “I’d never heard of it before I was diagnosed but when you look into it you see that most people don’t survive beyond five years after diagnosis. It’s not what you want to read – but I’m still here, six years later. I want to show others there are survivors.”
Approximately 800 people a year are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in Scotland. With a predicted increase of 49.9% by 2027, Scotland’s pancreatic cancer charity, Pancreatic Cancer Scotland (PCS), is determined increase survival rates and stop the disease becoming the second-largest cause of cancer death.
PCS is committed to raising awareness, enhancing education, healthcare research and support for patients and families in Scotland affected by pancreatic cancer and associated tumours.
There is currently no standard screening test or early detection method for pancreatic cancer, though research is being conducted in these areas.
Knowing the symptoms and risks remains key to an early diagnosis to give patients the best chance of survival.
Symptoms can include jaundice, weight loss, abdominal pain, backache, loss of appetite, new onset diabetes, changes to bowel habits, deep vein thrombosis low mood or depression.
Fiona Brown, development manager of PCS, said: “Pancreatic cancer doesn’t present in an obvious way. It’s not possible to feel a lump like other cancers and the symptoms can be vague, poorly understood and often dismissed as less serious health concerns.”
Although Andy had been experiencing some of the symptoms, he had no idea these could have been linked to pancreatic cancer.
Andy and his wife Morag love going on holiday and were due to go to Las Vegas for Andy’s 50th birthday. Andy started to experience stomach pains and his doctor suspected gallstones. The pain subsided, and the couple went to Vegas where they also renewed their wedding vows, dressed as Elvis Presley in white suits.
A couple of months later, when Andy was working offshore, he became concerned about the colour of his urine and stools, and he had jaundice. However, his appetite was fine, and he was still eating.
He was sent home and saw his GP in Inverness, who referred Andy to hospital for tests. A tumour was found on Andy’s pancreas, and a week later he had an operation known as the Whipple’s procedure.
After the operation Andy received six months of chemotherapy, and around a year later, he returned to work.
He said: “I never really spoke about it at work. You don’t want people to know in case they treat you differently and give you the easy jobs. Now I feel as if I am back to my normal self. Morag was brilliant. She did everything she could to make sure I was okay.”
Sadly, this wasn’t the only experience of pancreatic cancer for the family. Morag’s father, David Bergamini, 72, passed away last September, less than 24 hours after receiving a pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
Morag said: “As a family we have been both very fortunate to have Andy as a survivor and sadly not so lucky with the loss of my dad.”
Andy added: “I want to let people know there are survivors – but being aware and getting an early diagnosis is crucial.”
Andy and his family are supporters of PCS and last year volunteered at the charity’s Scottish tour to raise awareness.
Clan- do attitude
Andy and Morag are fully behind Pancreatic Cancer Scotland’s (PCS) vision to make the next decade one of change.
PCS have recently launched the Pan Can Clan, which aims to bring together a growing and inspiring community of people committed to fighting the disease.
Fiona Brown, development manager of PCS, explained: “Supporters like Andy and Morag play a key role in bringing their voice, energy, determination and commitment to change the pancreatic cancer story. Their inspiring dedication helps raise funds and awareness and fully embraces our belief that together we can make a difference.”
Father-of-four Andy enjoys spending time with his family, including three grandchildren. Last year his son, Scott, 31, married his partner Lynne and the couple had a surprise for Andy.
Instead of wedding favours, the couple gave out PCS purple ribbon pin badges to recognise Andy’s fifth year of survival. Andy said: “It was such a lovely thing to do. I was greeting my eyes out.”
To help raise awareness or funds for pancreatic cancer visit www.pancanscot.org