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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 May 2007, 09:28 GMT 10:28 UK
Facing up to a cancer diagnosis
The charity Cancer Research UK has launched its blueprint for the future of cancer care, which includes 10 goals for the year 2020.

Among these is the aspiration to see more than two-thirds of newly diagnosed patients living for at least five years.

Currently around 50% survive their brush with cancer - a big increase over the last 25 years.

But this figure disguises a great deal of inequality depending on your disease.

Survival chances range from 80% for breast cancer patients to a paltry 2.5% for patients with pancreatic cancer.

Two women talk about their quite different experiences with these diseases.

SUSAN PINCH, 68, from Liverpool
Diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in January

I have cancer of the pancreas. The survival rate is very poor but when they first told me, I felt quite hopeful because they said it was completely operable.

Susan Pinch
Susan Pinch has terminal cancer
That would give me at least a few more years.

I was scheduled for surgery in March and the day before the operation I had a scan and as far as I knew it was alright.

I was admitted to the ward and had my pre-meds and injections but about five minutes before I was due to go down they told me they had found spots on my lungs on the scan.

They couldn't do the operation - the cancer had spread.

I was distraught at the time but I am a bit fatalistic about these things, maybe everything happens for a purpose - it's quite an intensive operation and I wasn't looking forwards to it - I was worried about coming out of it.

I think the next few weeks were the hardest part - people ringing up and asking what has happened. I just didn't want to talk about it, I found that very hard.

Impact on family

I have three boys - all married - and seven grandchildren.

I think the government have gone overboard on breast cancer

They were very very upset. The little ones don't know; the bigger ones know something is the matter with me but they don't know the full extent.

I have been married to David for 43 years and he is coping really well - he has to cook and clean but we just take one day at a time.

Without the operation they gave me a time limit of about five to seven months and I asked at the time what was likely to kill me first, the pancreatic cancer or the cancer in my lung; no one was able to answer that one.

I am having chemotherapy now but when they told me I couldn't have the operation they said my best option was also to go on a new experimental trial of a vaccine for pancreatic cancer that they hope will shrink the tumour.

I went on it because I thought what have I got to lose - it can't make it any worse.

I used to be a nurse and I have nursed three people with pancreatic cancer.

It was always a death sentence - I don't know anyone who has survived.

Neglected disease

I think pancreatic cancer has been neglected, but there are an awful lot of cancers that are like the poor relations.

It makes me a bit cross because I think the government have gone overboard on breast cancer.

We have to die of something sometime

My cancer is difficult to diagnose but I am sure there are cancers that are easier to diagnose and the resources haven't gone into them either - it's a bit top heavy.

I think they should concentrate on other cancers too and hopefully we will see some advances soon in early diagnosis and treatment because if you catch it early enough you can at least operate.

I am not cross about having the disease though. No body is going to live forever.

Everybody thinks that we are going to go on and on and say 'Oh isn't it awful, so and so has got such and such a thing', but we have to die of something sometime.

Really I have not had a bad life, I have not been ill.

I am 68 now and I have seen my children grow up, a lot of people don't even see their children grow up, so I think I have done alright actually

No fear

I am not afraid of dying, I am afraid of the mode of it but they look after you a lot better these days.

I don't think anyone has control in the end - like the bit in the Bible that says when you are young you go where you want to go and when you are old someone takes you by the hand and leads you where you don't want to go - I think that's a fact of life actually.

I just live one day at a time really, don't make any big plans, see how I feel when I wake up in the morning, just enjoy what is here.

CELIA TWINING, 58, from Hove
Breast cancer survivor for 9 years

When I was first told I had cancer it was frightening.

Celia Twining
Celia Twining has a bright future

It was something I didn't want to believe; I felt like a child and wanted to put my hands over my ears and hope it would go away.

I thought it was going to be a death sentence and it wasn't helped by the fact that I had a course of chemotherapy before the surgery.

So I had to wait quite a few months before they operated and I found out the status of the tumour in my breast.

That was quite agonising and scary - I thought supposing I have all this treatment, which made me very very tired, and then at the end they told me I am going to die fairly soon.

Constant chemotherapy

The chemotherapy did make me feel ill but the process itself was quite easy.

I self-administered one of the drugs through a fixed line which was inserted into one of my arteries.

This hooked up a machine I wore all the time, which slowly pumped the drug into my blood throughout the day.

I realised that life is very short, there is only one life and you have to make the most of it

So I had to learn to do everything with it on - shower, walk down the street and just live my life on a daily basis wearing the machine.

It was very daunting at first, if they had told me all of what was involved at the start I think I would have probably said I couldn't cope, but I quickly got used to it and in the end I felt very proud of myself for doing it.

In fact it was strange when the tube was taken out; it felt like I was losing a lifeline.

I have never been told I have been cured. I don't ever think that I am cured.

I know that they took away that tumour and the treatment was effective.

I also know there is always a risk that the cancer could return.

Not in my thoughts

It is something one has to live with for the rest of one's life but most of time I don't think about it, its very much in the back of my mind - its not good psychologically to dwell on it all the time.

I have totally changed as a result of the experience.

I have learned more patience through having cancer

It was like having my back against the wall and I thought: 'Am I going to come out of this?'

Having done so I am very proud of myself and I decided that I was going to take up all sorts of things, hobbies interests that I hadn't thought of doing before.

I realised that life is very short, there is only one life and you have to make the most of it.

A few years ago I took singing lessons and joined a choir - the Brighton City Singers.

It is very therapeutic; it can make one feel good and its just good fun singing with a lot of people.

But it can also be challenging and having cancer has taught me to persevere at things.

Something positive

I suppose I have learned more patience through having cancer. I have learned not to give up too easily.

In a way I kind of feel I can do anything since having cancer and for the last eight years I have been doing extras work on TV and films.

It was almost undoubtedly the worst experience of my life - but it has also been one of the best

The other day I found myself sitting in the background in the Queen Vic on Eastenders.

If you had told me ten years ago that I would be doing that I would have poo pooed you - I wouldn't have thought I could ever walk on to a set, I'm not an actor. Now I think why not - why shouldn't it be me?

So I am almost surprised to hear myself saying this - but I think something positive came out of having cancer too.

It was almost undoubtedly the worst experience of my life but it has also been one of the best in that its helped shape my character and taken me in different direction that I never would have thought I would have gone in.

Cancer is a nasty insidious disease and my view when I had the treatment is that the medical profession know a lot about it and they know very little about it.

'I was lucky'

I remember, when I was told I had breast cancer, thinking at least it is a form of cancer that can be detected quite easily; in my case I found the lump.

I did wonder how I would have fared if I had had a cancer that was more internal and would have taken some time to find out about.

I think I was lucky - and I don't really like talking about luck - but I think I was lucky to have had the cancer in my breast.

I know there are a lot of people who have very different cancers and very different journeys and my heart goes out to them.

Breast cancer has been very lucky in that it's been highlighted and had so much publicity and study, but there needs to be much more research on the other cancers - everyone needs a chance.

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