Midwife aims to raise awareness of deadly disease

June 12, 2013
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A MIDWIFE at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, who has been diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer, is aiming to raise awareness and funds to tackle the illness.

Penny Lown, 50, a mother of three from Farnham who started work at the Guildford hospital in 2002, was diagnosed in April and began chemotherapy on May 31.

Despite her father dying from the same illness aged 54, Penny was shocked at her diagnosis as she had a passion for keeping fit through swimming and running, and ate a very healthy diet.

Her prognosis is that if she continues with chemotherapy, she will live for three to five years.

Penny, who married Terry in August 2012, said the important thing in her life now was to teach others about the symptoms of pancreatic cancer, to make people aware of an illness that can be caught very late and to raise money for the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund.

Suspicious symptoms

“I started to have mild chest pains, which turned to moderate chest pains, into quite uncomfortable, sort of electric shocks,” Penny said. “It was very sharp and uncomfortable.”

Penny explained she also had a bad back, not uncommon in her line of work but that this was not improving.

She now knows this was because her pancreas was unable to properly absorb nutrients from her food, resulting in her feeling tired and down.

Her heart was initially tested, due to her chest pains but she was given a nonconclusive diagnosis.

She was advised to rest and take time off to recover from stress but said she did not feel stressed but that she was uncomfortable and tired.

Further tests were carried out, including an abdominal PET – positron emission tomography – scan, and it was this that resulted in her diagnosis of metastatic carcinoma of the pancreas with secondary lesions in her lung.

“Everyone was so shocked,” she said. “I got married last August and had a wonderful day. I was so fit, it was just an amazing day. “To go from that to this in such a short space of time, it is devastating. Absolutely devastating.”

Members of her family, including husband Terry, her mother, Jane Stone, and her children, Josh Wheldon, 29, Poppy Wheldon, 25, and Ruby Wheldon, 18, have been phenomenal in their support.

“They have had to grow up very fast and had to face up to a very difficult situation,” Penny said. “One of the most positive things to come out of this is it makes you realise how significant family is and family cohesiveness, support and love.

“They have been phenomenal. We are very close and all helping each other. It puts a lot of things into perspective.”

Penny added: “I wasn’t a smoker. I was nothing but a normal social drinker. I could go for long periods without being bothered about alcohol.

“One thing I stress to my children, the absolutely most important thing for them, is to have an optimal lifestyle.

“If there is a possible risk of a genetic link – which we don’t know about yet – the most important thing now is to stay away from smoking and to adopt a healthy lifestyle.”

Penny said it was so important to be fit as, if you are diagnosed with cancer, it is important to be in good shape if you have to go through surgery or chemotherapy.

Supportive colleagues

Penny said her colleagues and the midwifery team had been hugely supportive.

One of the first fundraising initiatives was a cake sale organised by midwife Sally Stainer and colleagues at the hospital last week, with funds also going towards its cancer centre, St Luke’s, and the Safe Delivery Trust Fund charity.

Penny’s sister, Virginia, and her husband Neil, are taking part in the Great North Run in September, to raise money for Pancreatic Cancer Awareness.

To help them reach their £4,000 target, visit www.just giving.com/Neil-Smith61

Donations can also be given to the charity through www.pancan.org

Article source: http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/s/2135442_midwife_aims_to_raise_awareness_of_deadly_disease


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