A Cambuslang woman is calling for more awareness of pancreatic cancer as the anniversary of her mum’s death approaches.
Debbie Baker was left devastated when her mum, Margaret Douglas, passed away from the disease on March 21, 2015.
Finding out a loved one has cancer is always a horrific moment.
But for Debbie Baker, it was also an extremely confusing one.
She was sat in a doctors officer with her mother, Margaret Douglas, when they found out Margaret was suffering from pancreatic cancer.
Stunned, Margaret left the room while Debbie waited behind to hear the prognosis.
But, as well as all the images and potential outcomes going through her mind, there was one question that stood out: “what is the pancreas?”
Forty-year-old Debbie, who is now a campaigner for pancreatic cancer awareness, admits now she had no idea what her mum was facing, and she reckons that’s one of the reasons statistics for pancreatic cancer have remained static for the past 40 years.
“Before my mum had pancreatic cancer I didn’t even know what it was,” she says. “Or even where it was on the body.
“When we were told, mum left the room and the doctor told me she would be lucky to have four to six months. “After that, we just wanted her to have the best life possible.
“She never once complained. She knew it was serious, but she always said she wanted to ‘kick its a***’.”
Margaret was diagnosed in February, 2014.
She underwent several months of treatment, and her tumour actually shrunk to a small enough size to be operated on.
After going through a process known as Whipple procedure in February 2015, hopes were high she may yet beat the horrific disease.
But after four weeks in Glasgow’s Royal Infirmary, she passed away on March 21, 2015 at the age of just 66.
Debbie, who went to the Scottish Parliament last year to lobby for more support, reckons things could have been different if her mother had been diagnosed earlier.
“The problem with pancreatic cancer is, it’s very hard to diagnose,” she said.
“The symptoms can often be linked to other things, and I think GP’s need to be more aware of that. “Abdominal pain or nausea, these could be lots of things, but they could also be pancreatic cancer.
“My mum was losing five to seven pounds a week. She went from a big woman to being just six and half stone. By the time she died, she weighed just four and half stones, my kids weighed more than her.
“The doctors just put it down to mum’s diabetes and they never investigated anything else. By the time she was diagnosed, it was too late.”
Margaret’s story is painfully familiar to families all over Rutherglen and Cambuslang, and indeed, the entire country.
With the first anniversary of her death almost upon them, Debbie and the family are reflecting on the woman they loved so much.
Although divorced, she remained friends with Debbie’s dad and was a loving mother to Debbie and her sister, Lee Douglas.
She was a dotting grandmother to Lee’s young daughter, Kara, 12, as well as Debbie’s four children, Yusuf, 12, Yasmine, 11, Zach, 8, and Zahara, 7. She also welcomed Debbie’s husband, Mukhaled into the family as the “son she never had.”
Debbie said: “She worked in the Richmond Park laundry for years and then went to Cambuslang Golf Club, which she absolutely loved.
“She worked all her days, everything she did was for other people. She was a typical Glasgow woman, just a brilliant person. “She didn’t socialise much, I think that’s why she enjoyed working in the golf club so much.
Plans are now in place for a permanent memorial at Cambuslang Golf Club and her grandchildren will release balloons on the day itself at her grave in Westburn Cemetery.
During the Easter holidays, the family will complete a charity cycle round Millport to raise funds for Pancreatic Cancer Scotland.
Debbie explained: “Her sister, my Aunt Rose, lives on Millport, as does my dad, so I have lots of memories from my childhood of her taking us there.”
Debbie is hoping to raise money for Pancreatic Scotland, which was set up by Mr Ross Carter, who performed Margaret’s Whipple proceedure.
The family also raised £750 for the charity at Margaret’s funeral.
Brace Margaret kept her spirits high even throughout her treatment Much loved gran Margaret in hospital with Debbie and her children (from left) Yusuf, Zach. Zahara and Yasmine just after her diagnosis
Family love Margaret with her granddaughter, Zara