Arthur Jones, 73 from Kirkby, Merseyside, set alarm bells ringing earlier this year after losing his appetite before dying from the UK’s “quickest-killing cancer”. Daughter Sheryll told the Liverpool Echo: “He loved my roast dinners, and he wasn’t eating them.
“I was thinking, ‘Something’s not right for my dad not to eat my roast dinner’. Each time, he’d go, ‘Sheryll, I just can’t eat big meals anymore’.
“He was losing weight and needing to go to the toilet more, and me personally, I was concerned.”
Ms Jones, who cared for her aunt Irene in the latter stages of her fight against pancreatic cancer, started to notice similarities with her dad’s condition.
She explained: “Because of what I experienced with our Irene, my dad’s sister, it started creeping up on me that something’s not right here, he needed to go and see his GP.
“But he was just a bit of a nightmare to get into the doctors, to be honest.”
Even though he was in “severe pain”, former docker and railway worker Arthur waited until the day after the 21st birthday of granddaughter Ellie to A&E in order not to spoil her big day.
A CT scan brought devastating news, 49-year-old Ms Jones continued.
She said: “When the surgeon came around, he said, ‘Arthur, we’ve picked something up on your pancreas’, and I instantly felt sick.
“I thought, ‘This is it, all over again’. My dad looked at me and he went, ‘You’re thinking of Irene, aren’t you?'”
A fortnight later biopsies confirmed Arthur too was suffering from pancreatic cancer, which is the 10th most common cancer and the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths in the UK, according to Cancer Research UK. Doctors gave him three months to live.
Ms Jones said: “My dad was in the corridor in A&E and it was like a warzone when I walked in. While I was there, a lady two beds in front of my dad passed away, in the corridor. An old lady, in front of everyone, on her own.
“I just thought, ‘He is not staying here’. I’ve got nothing against the nurses, they just haven’t got time to care for anyone, and I wanted my dad to have his own comforts and his own routine for as long as possible.”
Ms Jones moved into her parent’s home where she, mum Eileen and brother Paul cared for her dad, a time she remembers as “horrific” for all concerned.
She said: “It was the most excruciating pain he was going through, but he was more frightened of losing his mind than anything. Towards the end, he started losing his mind. He was looking at us like he didn’t know us. He was angry.”
Finally the family found him a place at a Marie Curie hospice and three days later, on June 24, he died, with Paul at his side, while Ms Jones had taken a walk to Sainbury’s.
She said: “As hard as it was, those six weeks, I also felt blessed because some people don’t get the chance to tell them they love them.
“Some of those experiences or conversations I had with my dad were so hard. It was unbelievable that my dad could say those things to me without me getting upset, that he loves me and, as far as he’s concerned, he’s had a good life, he never thought he’d last this long and has a lovely family. Some people don’t get that.”
Pancreatic Cancer UK, which calls the disease is “the deadliest and quickest killing cancer”, says more than half of all people diagnosed die within three months, describing it as an “an appalling statistic that has barely improved in 50 years”.
It is the deadliest of the 20 most common cancers, killing roughly 9,000 people in the UK every year. Most people are diagnosed with it after attending A&E and other emergency units, with just seven percent surviving five years or more after diagnosis.
Symptoms – such as loss of appetite, weight loss, changes to stool and urine, stomach pain, back pain, indigestion and jaundice – often do not appear until the cancer has grown, meaning by the time it is spotted it is often too late.
Pancreatic Cancer UK fears tens of thousands of cancer diagnoses were missed during the Covid lockdown, while a recent Savanta ComRes poll commissioned by the charity indicated more than 80 percent of GPs believe winter pressures on the NHS will stop people with the condition from getting diagnosed and received life-saving treatment.