HOPE is a word not often associated with pancreatic cancer but, occasionally, you hear a story with a little more hope than most – let me introduce Colin Butts. Colin is giving pancreatic cancer a run for its money and throwing a glimmer (well more than a glimmer actually!) of hope into a situation where ordinarily there would be little to none. I’ve enjoyed seeing Colin’s story unfold and as this campaign is all about #hope being contagious, I’m keeping everything crossed that Colin’s good fortune will continue and #hope truly will be contagious for him.
Let’s start at the beginning – in February 2016 Colin was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer – stage 4, inoperable and terminal – a stage further than my husband was on diagnosis and I remember that we had to pretty quickly get our heads around a prognosis of 6-18 months.
In the words of Colin’s specialist, who pulled no punches, “as cancers go, yours is pretty catastrophic”. Those of us that understand the absolute horror a pancreatic cancer diagnosis flings you into know that most patients, when diagnosed, have very little time left and Colin was no exception. In fact, his specialist told him he’d likely be dead within 2 months and if he opted for chemo he could expect to live 5-8 months at a push. As someone who has sat there listening to a devastating prognosis being given, I can tell you that it’s hard to accept that nothing can be done. How can this cancer have such shockingly low survival rates? How can nothing have improved in over 50 years? How have I not even heard of pancreatic cancer? (well Colin might have but I certainly hadn’t). How can death be coming so quickly?
Clearly Colin wasn’t going to take this diagnosis lying down and after carrying out research, he managed to find a trial for which he was eligible. Even better than that he, and his tumour, responded well to the trial and Colin found himself in the very fortunate position of going from inoperable and terminal to operable with a glimmer of hope for a longer life than originally envisaged. In fact, the medics suggested that with surgery and some additional chemo Colin’s chances of being alive in 5 years’ time would increase from 1 in 100 to 1 in 5. Colin underwent 6 hours of surgery and it’s clear from his social media posts that not only is he grateful to his surgeons and medical team but his gratitude extends to his army of friends and supporters – of which he clearly has many.
Colin’s approach is pragmatic but he is also quite rightly fully embracing this second shot he’s been given. Colin refers to it as ‘the bullet being out of the gun and I’ve just got to stay in front of it’ Clearly the best outcome would be that Colin has no need for further medical assistance but should he find himself in the position of needing options in the future, who knows what breakthroughs might come now that long overdue funding is finally finding its way into research.
Survivors have previously said to me that they feel guilty around people like me who have lost a loved one to pancreatic cancer. It horrifies me that someone would feel that way. Yes, I’ve lost the love of my life to pancreatic cancer but I am absolutely delighted when I know that someone is surviving this insidious disease, it’s what those of us that fight for more awareness strive for – survivors – we want to see more survivors and lots of them and we will never stop raising awareness until we see the day when pancreatic cancer has survival rates that mean more people survive the disease than die from it.
Colin is now 15 months post diagnosis – go Colin – we are all rooting for you! #HopeIsContagious
You can follow Colin on Twitter @colinbutts