A dad-of-six who felt unwell on holiday in Cornwall was left devastated when doctors told him he had pancreatic cancer.
Businessman Gordon Thorpe, 49, began to feel unwell on the second day of their holiday to Mevagissey, Cornwall, last August after a day on the beach.
Wife Donna, 36, noticed that the whites of his eyes were turning yellow and, having discovered he was passing darker urine, she rang an out-of-hours GP’s surgery at around 6pm for peace of mind.
Donna claims they were advised to go to hospital where he was admitted for tests and days later was dealt the life-changing news that he had a cancerous tumour – while still on his holiday.
Donna, from Charnock Richard, Lancashire, said: “It was a living nightmare as he just got progressively worse. Every time we went round a corner we hit a brick wall.
“Ten years ago he had testicular cancer and had an operation. We were told we wouldn’t have any more children but had our three daughters.
“You just think ‘it can’t happen again’.”
Gordon, who also has three children from a previous relationship, had planned the trip to the pretty fishing port as a surprise for Donna and children Phoebe, seven, five-year-old Drew and 22-month-old Matilda.
Donna said: “I normally plan holidays but we hadn’t got round to it.
“We knew we wanted to go somewhere and one night after work Gordon came home and said he’d booked for us to go away which was really nice and unexpected.
“We had all these expectations – we were all excited as we were going away a week before the girls went back to school.
“They’d waited all summer holidays to go away and had planned all these nice things and then it went wrong.”
Gordon, who also has Type 1 diabetes, was admitted to Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro on the Sunday night and underwent a series of diagnostic tests including x-rays and ultrasounds.
As the days progressed Gordon’s health declined.
Donna said: “He couldn’t eat and was getting yellower and yellower. For at least five or six days he went without food, because he was on standby for surgery but also because he couldn’t keep anything down.
“He was being sick so couldn’t eat properly – he couldn’t even manage soup as he was so poorly.”
Gordon was determined that while confined to his hospital bed Donna and the girls should enjoy themselves and ordered them to spend their days playing on the beach.
Donna said: “I took the girls to the beach and sat on my own as they played.
“Gordon didn’t want them sat in the cottage all day so we packed our buckets and spades and went without him.
“The girls seemed to be enjoying themselves and were playing thinking that their dad would be home soon but I’d Googled his symptoms and the fact he was Type 1 diabetic and it immediately came up as pancreatic cancer.”
Donna drove back and forth from the holiday cottage to visit Gordon and asked both sets of parents to make the 350-mile journey down to Cornwall to help look after the girls.
Doctors discovered that Gordon’s bile duct had narrowed and fitted him with a stent, but on what should have been the last day of the family’s holiday doctors confirmed the worst – that he had a tumour on his pancreas.
Donna said: “We were given a glimmer of hope when we were referred to a fantastic professor in London who was adamant he could operate to save him.
“This was scheduled for October 17 and we looked forward to putting this behind us.
“But on October 7 Gordon had his pre-op assessment and laparoscopy and the results of broke our hearts.
“The cancer had spread to the membrane of the abdomen and nothing could be done so the operation was cancelled.”
Despite the bleak prognosis Gordon and Donna are determined to put up a fight and have overhauled their diet by embarking on an organic vegan eating plan while he undergoes gruelling chemotherapy cycles.
The pair are now fundraising £50,000 to get a consultation at the Hallwang Clinic in Germany which offers immunotherapy treatment.
Gordon said: “I always had a feeling over the years that something was going to come back, I just didn’t know where or when.
“It’s overwhelming to know that lots of people, many complete strangers who don’t have a lot, are giving – it’s fantastic.
“I’ve done five cycles of radical chemotherapy, after the first round it was so bad I considered not having any more but I’m going to carry on.
“In my own mind if you just accept what the doctors say you probably could get away with laying around in bed all day but I’m trying to take advantage of all the time I’ve got – it’s a mindset.
“If you just accept it you’re going to feel bad.”
Donna said: “Gordon is such a strong and positive person, he’s determined it won’t beat him and keeps fighting every single say and isn’t just relying on conventional treatment.
“The girls know he’s poorly and needs special medicines and that it may take a while until he’s better.
“I’m so proud of him. We work together and are happily married, we do everything together and are a partnership in every sense of the word.
“We are determined to do everything we can for Gordon.”
You can donate here https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/Gordon-Thorpe.