It was a day of mixed emotions for Dollingstown woman Susan Cooke when she was at Stormont to launch the NI support group for the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund.
The launch took place on the first anniversary of Susan’s husband Colin’s death from the disease. Colin, was 45 when he died, just 11 weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Having co-founded and led First Moira Scouts for 18 years, as well as working full-time in Boots in Moira, Colin was well-known and respected in the communities of Lurgan, where he grew up, and in Dollingstown, where he lived with Susan and their two sons Adam, 20 and Aaron, 4.
Health Minister Edwin Poots welcomed the founder of PCRF, Maggie Blanks and Susan Cooke to Parliament Buildings to hear first hand how the charity assists with research into this disease which often has a poor prognosis.
The Minister said: “In Northern Ireland around 200 people die every year from pancreatic cancer which accounts for almost 5.3% of all cancer-related deaths excluding non-melanoma skin cancer. I acknowledge that pancreatic cancer has a reputation of being difficult to treat as it is often detected at an advanced stage. Pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose and treat successfully mainly due to its non-specific symptoms or sudden onset of jaundice at a late stage.
“That is why I welcome and give my support to the work about to be undertaken by the team in the Northern Ireland Branch of PCRF, who will be dedicated solely to fundraising for more research into pancreatic cancer.”
Maggie Blanks who founded PCRF in April 2004, following the death of her husband from the disease, said: “It’s fantastic that the charity has supporters as proactive and enthusiastic as Susan in helping to galvanise public and political support for more research. We have a large number of supporters in Northern Ireland and their hard work is directly funding world class research that will change the lives of those people whose chances of survival are currently the bleakest of all. This is something to be extremely proud of.”
Speaking at the event Mr Mark Taylor, Consultant General and Hepatobiliary Surgeon at Belfast’s Mater Hospital said: “Patients with pancreatic cancer usually present at an advanced stage when surgery is not possible.
“I would like to be in the position of diagnosing this cancer early so that surgery, which is the only chance for a cure, can be performed.
“PCRF is supporting many areas of research in pancreatic cancer including the development of diagnostic tools for earlier detection. I fully support the formation of a Northern Ireland Supporters Group for this dynamic charity.”
The Minister concluded: “I commend Susan for all her efforts in raising public and political awareness of pancreatic cancer at a local level and wish the PCRF every success in their fund raising efforts which has the real potential to benefit pancreatic cancer sufferers throughout Northern Ireland.”