Okanagan woman beating the odds

Judy Patterson is battling the most deadly, hardest to treat cancer

Imagine receiving a cancer diagnosis only to learn you have a six per cent chance of survival.

That is the reality for the 4,600 Canadians diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

And that is the reality Coldstream resident Judy Patterson is fighting.

“I’ve been at this for two years now,” said 71-year-old Patterson, prior to going in for yet another round of blood work, to be followed by more chemotherapy, at the Vernon Cancer Clinic.

It’s the same type of cancer that killed her brother. Therefore, when Patterson started having “excruciating” abdominal pain, her doctor suggested she have a CT scan. But after being told it would be at least a three-month wait, Paterson put out $1,100 plus travel to Vancouver to have a CT scan done at a private clinic.

“It was going to be too long to wait here, so I paid,” said the wife and mother of two grown boys (one here and one in Cranbrook).

She’s glad she did, as the cancer proved inoperable and immediate treatment was needed. It has also since metastasized (spread), but Patterson’s optimism and smile still shines. Even though she knows how fast, and silently, pancreatic cancer can grow.

“It’s not one of the well-known cancers for sure. A very small percentage of the cancers are pancreatic. But there’s no symptoms. So it grows and grows and by the time they do find it, it’s so far gone.”

But with donations to the Canadian Cancer Society, researchers are working tirelessly to improve the odds of survival with pancreatic cancer.

Support enables CCS to fund groundbreaking, lifesaving research into all cancers — the only cancer charity in Canada to do so. Currently, a new special focus is on the most deadly, hard-to-treat cancers like pancreatic cancer.

With funding made possible by donors, Dr. Ming Tsao of Toronto is studying how we can improve survival rates for pancreatic cancer by detecting it earlier and discovering new lifesaving treatments.

“Our research has the potential to make a huge difference in the lives of those diagnosed with this disease,” said Tsao.