Seven and a half years ago I learnt about a bile duct for the first time; in the days running up to my Dad’s 60th birthday he’d been a bit itchy and had started turning yellow. An amazingly astute GP (with personal experience of what was to come), swift turnaround in our local hospital and expert opinion following numerous tests from a regional centre, meant that a few weeks later Dad was diagnosed with bile duct cancer. I’ve written here before that someone once told me the cancers you need to worry about are the ones with the long names, the more syllables – the more worrying, well to give it it’s full name, bile duct cancer, or cholangiocarcinoma, has 8 syllables (to save you counting).
OK, ignore the sketchy nature, this isn’t medical advice or an anatomical textbook, this is just a scribble that I remember being drawn for us on one of Dad’s first consultations. It was drawn many times after that, the bile duct is that innocuous stem, it drains bile (that digests fats) from the liver, joins the gall bladder, and drains out through the bowel (I think). Dad’s was blocked, initially the hope (our greatest hope) was that it would be a gallstone blocking the duct, but no, investigation showed it was a tumour. The treatment that followed is documented elsewhere on this blog, I’ll not go into it again, suffice to say after five years of life with cholangiocarcinoma, my amazing Dad died in November 2012.
In all that time I never met anyone else who knew about bile duct cancer (other than the staff of course). At the time Dad was diagnosed there were 1,000 cases each year in the UK, current statistics from AMMF suggest it’s now 1,800 cases a year. Still, exceedingly rare. So, imagine my surprise/horror/heartache when one of my oldest mates from school got in touch just before Christmas to say her Mum was ill, and it looked like it was bile duct cancer.
Penny’s Mum is amazing, she’s shown an indomitable spirit that characterised my Dad’s journey. In a bizarre twist of fate, this blog that I wrote as part therapy, part record and part splurging of a different perspective of this disease, is suddenly being read by one of my nearest and dearest.
Now, back to the point of this post, my gorgeous, amazing and wonderful godson, Dylan (Penny’s son) has shown an awareness far beyond his 11 years since his Nan was diagnosed.
Today he is walking 10 miles along the Devon coast to raise money for AMMF, the UK’s only cholangiocarcinoma charity. He set out to raise £200 and yet today he has smashed past £1,000, over five times his target. I’m off to meet him and his Mum at the end of their walk, but before I set off I wanted to share this post with the world, we hear so much shite about the youth of today, their bad behaviour, lack of aspirations, laziness, selfishness, phone/computer obsessed nature. Dylan is none of these things, he’s an amazingly caring, cool and kind young man. He’s smart beyond his years and someone his Mum and his Nan can be bursting with pride over. If he’s our future, I reckon we’re in safe hands.
If you read this and fancy throwing a couple quid in Dylan’s direction, I know he’d appreciate it, and I know that AMMF would too. If you’d like to find out more about their work, click here, and if you’d like to donate, click here.
I hope that no-one else I know ever has to face cholangiocarcinoma, but I know if they do, every penny spent on research and support into it will help. Raising money and raising awareness is equally important, so thank you for reading and please share if you can.