Cancer that creeps up on people

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There isn’t an hour that passes where I don’t think about my youngest brother, Michael.

Even though it’s been eight years since we lost him to pancreatic cancer he’s very much part of my life.

I still come across books I know he would love to read and hear music we enjoyed together as young – then older – men.

Despite him being the youngest of seven siblings, he was a wise and measured person, there to turn to when you needed to take counsel. I miss our talks.

His amazing wife and children stood by and supported him through the tough times and would have made him proud in the way they have carried on while keeping his memories fresh and positive.

Before Michael became ill, aged 48, I had no knowledge of pancreatic cancer. It certainly wouldn’t have been something I imagined my fit, healthy and handsome wee brother ever getting. Yet, in painful retrospect, it crept quietly up on him.

I remember him complaining in our mum’s house about abdominal pains, puzzling even his GP with its random, non-specific symptoms, which are all too obvious now.

This is one of the silent cancers. Often, by the time you know you have it, treatment is limited.

When I discovered that November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month I was struck by how incredibly important it is. Awareness of this awful disease, in my opinion, is crucial.

According to cancer charities, this is the fifth most common cause of cancer death, yet it’s not talked about the way other cancers are.

To improve survival, we need more research into early diagnosis, treatments and care – better early diagnosis and increased awareness so that members of the public are able to spot symptoms.

Shockingly, a ComRes poll carried out for Pancreatic Cancer UK last year found that 71 per cent of people could not name a single sign of pancreatic cancer.

Boost your knowledge by taking the Pancreatic Cancer UK symptoms quiz at www.pancreasaware.co.uk.

Michael’s wonderful wife, Sheena, has every year since he passed arranged a walk and talk with friends and family around one of his favourite spots. It is the green place he liked to sit and think, near Auchenbowie.

He would jog here, in the misty air of the Square Circle, as he called it, before heading off to work.

He was a much loved teacher, a poet and a talented musician. Many of his former pupils and colleagues, plus he and Sheena’s best pals, still go to ‘Michael’s Walk’ to celebrate the man he was.

As we stand looking at breathtaking scenery, whisky clutched in a plastic cup to toast him and recite one of his poems, he is ever close by.