EVEN if you don’t watch soaps, you’re more than likely to have heard about Coronation Street character Hayley Cropper’s harrowing battle with pancreatic cancer, screened recently.
Sadly, the disease is just as common in real life, and Chester woman Elaine Morley’s dealings with it has made a big impact on her life.
She’s no stranger to hard times – shortly after giving birth, her partner was diagnosed with cancer and although he recovered, Elaine’s relationship broke down as a result.
Putting on a brave face, Elaine had to return to her full-time job as a financial adviser, specialising in Chester property finance in order to support her daughter, and in the process made an excellent name for herself in the area.
She eventually decided to take the plunge and set up her own mortgage advisory firm – an admirable feat for someone who has faced such a challenging time, and life was going well.
But last summer, everything stood still when her father Mike, who Elaine describes as ‘her world’, was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.
He was given between just three and six months to live at the time, but is still battling on today.
Elaine admits the whole experience has made such an impact on her that she has vowed to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer as she possibly can.
She’s been getting involved in social media with the Pancreatic Cancer Foundation and its ‘Purple P’ campaign by promoting an e-petition and is in the process of planning a 268-mile bike ride from Chester to Bournemouth to raise funds and awareness of the disease.
“My dad’s illness has had a profound impact on my outlook on life, giving me a deeper sense of care and compassion for all,” says Elaine.
“I’ve met some lovely people, especially at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre; sufferers, their families and staff and it really is humbling how much strength and love people have regardless of their own situation.
“Pancreatic cancer is the fifth biggest cause of death from cancer and sadly, treatments and diagnosis methods mean that for 4/5ths of people diagnosed, it is a death sentence, with only a 3% chance of survival in the past five years.
“But it still only receives 1% of the funding budget. That makes me really angry.
“Our world collapsed when my dad was diagnosed. He’s so brave and has defied the averages and has taken part in a clinical research trial for new PC treatment.
“He’s a die-hard Chester FC fan and is even still managing to make it to the odd match.”
Elaine adds: “I’m doing all I can to change the chronic lack of awareness of this horrid disease, and have been inspired along the way – recently I was in touch with a young lad called Jack Andraka who is an inspiration.
“At 15 he developed an idea for a cheap and effective dip-stick test, like a pregnancy test, which in theory would pick up early stage PC whilst its still treatable.
“The test is a very long way from being properly tested, trialled and widely available but in the meantime Jack has travelled the world raising awareness of the disease.
“The Coronation Street storyline, although too hard to watch, is also very welcome in raising awareness.
“But in today’s society with all our resources and technology I find it incredibly sad there is still such a lack of it, and I’d urge anyone to press their GP for further tests if they have a niggling digestive problem that isn’t responding to medication as it should.”
And the past year means Elaine has also been spurred on to take more risks; she recently opened her very own independent mortgage advisory service, in her 20th year of work.
She’s working seven days a week, fitting in appointments in the evenings to spend precious moments with her dad, and is also studying for a diploma in mortgage advice and practice.
When she completes it, she’ll be the only adviser in the area to have this accredition.
“It would be so easy to say ‘why him’ and ‘it’s not fair’ but that’s not helpful,” says Elaine.
“My conviction is that although I have no choice in what’s happening, I do have a choice of how I choose to deal with it and a positive attitude is a must.
“I find myself taking a little more time to savour those little moments which mean so much.
“I certainly think prior to my dad’s illness I was very cautious and scared of the risk but life really is too short and my dad, despite being ill, really has been my rock.”