Alison passed away aged 54 years on 15March 2018. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July 2017. She leaves a
husband Rob, daughter Sophie aged 25 and son George, aged 20.
After working in banking, Alison decided to change career. She graduated from the University of Salford with a degree in Occupational Therapy and started work at Wigan Social Services. She loved her job, working with people in the community and helping those with medical needs.
We had been married for 30 years. With our children grown up and starting to forge their own lives, we were enjoying spending more time together and looking forward to the future.
I had joined the Merseyside Police when I was 16 and served for 32 years, dealing with many horrific incidents including murder, drugs and road traffic accidents. I have seen and dealt with things that were terrible and shocking.
But nothing we had ever done or experienced in our lives so far, could have prepared us for what we faced dealing with pancreatic cancer.
It is described as the “silent killer” and generally shows no real symptoms until it has reached an advanced state where it has spread to other organs. It usually kills within months, as it did with Alison.
Even when she did show late stage symptoms; abdominal pain, weight loss, bowel problems, unexpectedly developing diabetes – these were not picked up by the GP or diabetes clinic as being a red flag for further investigation. She had no tests or scans.
She was given pain killers and laxatives, which didn’t help, and ended up being rushed into hospital in agony, in July 2017. By the time she was finally diagnosed the cancer had spread from her pancreas to her liver and lymph nodes and was terminal.
The journey we had can only be described as heart breaking. She had nine sessions of chemotherapy which caused numerous distressing side effects and she lost a great deal of weight.
She was on a mountain of medication which, as her carer, with no experience, had to manage on a daily basis. We did our best, but we had no help, no support at all. Seeing her suffer was terrible to witness for me and our children; we felt completely helpless.
The pain she endured near impossible to manage at home, so in December 2017 she was admitted to the Clatterbridge Hospital under the care of the Palliative Pain team.
Alison tried to remain positive throughout her illness. But I had done some research and knew how aggressive pancreatic cancer is. I didn’t want to believe it, but I knew deep down that she would never recover and feared the worst was around the corner. I also wondered how I would cope over the coming months, and how we would cope without
Alison came home but it was a constant battle to control the pain and the after-effects of the chemotherapy drugs. She was also still losing weight and eating less and less.
She got worse and was admitted to the Clatterbridge Hospital again in March 2018. She never came home. On 15 March she died in my arms with all her family around her.
So many things could have - and should have - been done better. Nothing will bring Alison back and I am not looking to blame anyone. I just want to make sure that no other families go through what we went through.
Alison was seen by a number of GPs and at the diabetic clinic. No-one looked at all her symptoms together, no-one investigated her symptoms further. All they did was prescribe pain killers and
I want to help raise awareness of the signs and symptoms and try and get GPs and other medical teams to do more in looking into the signs sending people for blood tests, scans and to look into the onset of diabetes in later life. I also want to raise funds for research to find a way of diagnosing this deadly cancer earlier.
I will eventually write a book, because Alison kept a diary of all her thoughts and events this may help people in the future.
This JustGiving page has been started in Alison’s memory to raise awareness and fundraise for Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, a charity dedicated to improving the survival rate of pancreatic cancer
patients by researching new treatments and ways to diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier.
Pancreatic cancer does not have very specific symptoms, which is why it is often misdiagnosed as less lethal conditions.
Symptoms can vary depending on where the tumour is on the pancreas. But if you have combinations of the following you should contact your GP.
The most common symptoms
Upper abdominal pain which radiates around the back
Painless jaundice and/or very itchy skin
Significant weight loss
Other potential symptoms
New onset diabetes (not associated with weight gain)
Pale, oily stools
Indigestion not eased by medication
Nausea or vomiting
Loss of appetite
So much progress has been made in improving the survival of many cancers, and this is great news. But pancreatic cancer’s survival rate is the lowest of all common cancers and the survival rate has barely improved in the past 40 years.
Fewer than 5 out of every 100 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will survive for 5 years or more. The average time from diagnosis to death is 6 months. BE SYMPTOM AWARE.