On Wednesday 27th May 2020 I was taken to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital (SCUH) emergency department via ambulance presenting with skyrocketing blood pressure (200+ over 120+ and rising) and a suspected stroke. I was positively diagnosed with an ischaemic stroke in the left side of my brain causing speech/language problems and some paralysis on the right side of my body. I was admitted to the stroke ward and put immediately on intravenous anti-clotting medication and started on rehabilitation therapy the same day.
At 2AM the following morning, I suffered another series of stroke events– a type of thrombotic storm that caused numerous small strokes to break out throughout both sides my brain simultaneously. One of SCUH’s incredible Neurologists had a hunch that there was a more sinister underlying condition that may have caused all of this and he was right. After comprehensive testing over 2-3 days it was confirmed that I had Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer that had metastasized to my liver. A grim diagnosis. With an expected life expectancy of 3-6 months if left untreated – and at best up to 12 months with treatment.
** I am 56 years old and 3 months down the track from my diagnosis I’m still here. And I’m still smiling. I’ve just about completed my second round of chemotherapy and within the next week or two I will know whether that has been successful and bought me more time. For me and my cherished family.
I wish I could tell you that this will be the end of my medical journey and the beginning of my recovery. And while that has proved true for my stroke recovery, it is only the beginning of something far more challenging when it comes to facing this sneaky pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
I say sneaky because that is exactly what it is. Pancreatic Cancer doesn’t smack you in the face and tell you “I’m here!” It doesn't usually cause symptoms until the cancer has spread to other areas of the body. In fact more than half of all cases of pancreatic cancers are first diagnosed at stage 4. And when it does make you feel unwell you’re not sick enough to take yourself to the doctor’s office.
In my case, it took a major event that landed me in hospital. My challenges ahead of me are real and sometimes a little scary, but the one thing I’ve learnt through all of this is that I’m not alone. My beautiful family and friends have rallied around me – there whenever I need them, but always mindful of my need to make my own decisions and supporting whatever choices I make.
The kindness and professional care I continue to receive from the staff at SCUH has been incredible. I can’t speak more highly of them. And the long list of outpatient services available to me in my local community through QLD Health and other local organisations, are there when and if I need them.
And work. It’s hard to put into words how supportive and generous the wonderful people from Range Care have been - what can I say? You have been amazing! From food parcels that arrive out of nowhere on my doorstep to emotional support and so much more. You have become like a second family to me.
This experience has taught me to accept help when offered. Because it’s all there: All you have to do is say is yes. (Not an easy thing for me to do I assure you). And I want to take this opportunity to say a huge heartfelt THANK YOU to my family, friends, work colleagues, the health system and the hard-working volunteer organisations in our local community.
All that’s left is for us is to find a better and quicker way to recognise and diagnose this disease in it’s earlier stages so that those battling it have a better chance of survival for longer.
And I cannot sign off without saying - Thank you Roley Sykes for initiating this fundraising effort. I personally couldn’t think of a better cause than PanCare. Looking forward to seeing you bald. (We can compare hairstyles).
Roley Sykes Head Shave Fundraiser - Inspired by Linda Harrocks
Sensing an opportunity for a free haircut, our Financial Controller, Roley Sykes is pledging to shave his head and fundraise for the Pancare Foundation. The Pancare Foundation is Australia’s not-for-profit pancreatic cancer organisation. Their purpose is to increase survival and provide support to people affected by pancreatic cancer and other upper gastrointestinal cancer.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
· Make a donation through this secure platform— https://specialoccasion.gofundraise.com.au/page/Jess-6743735
· Share the fundraising link with your family, friends and on your social media accounts. A limited number of locks of Roley’s hair will be available. These will be collectors’ items. They will be packed for posterity in self sealing plastic bags. Corporate Funders who donate more than $100 and individuals who donate more than $20 will go into a draw for the opportunity to get one these.