I am going to reel off some names here and I wonder if you know what connects them all:
Steve Jobs, Jack Benny, Patrick Swayze, Bill Hicks, Luciano Pavarotti, Roger Lloyd Pack, Alan Bates, Ralph Bates, Joan Crawford, Sally Ride, Count Basie, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Landon, Henry Mancini and last, but for me most definitely not least, my father.
All of these people died of a particularly nasty and pernicious illness, pancreatic cancer. It is a cancer that is difficult to diagnose early and which causes in a lot a cases a fairly quick and very painful death. My father was diagnosed 6 months after the onset of symptoms and due to the fact that he was a particularly bloody-minded individual he lasted a further 18 months, although the fight had a devastating effect on him, with him looking like an 80 year old, and not the 55 year-old builder that he was.
There are many things in this life that, I think, we would all fight for. Our families, ourselves, and above all we would of course fight to live in the face of an imminent threat. In the face of such imminent threats we all cling to one thing, an that one thing is hope.
One year ago, almost to the very day, in fact, the work of a very brave bunch of people was recognised when, after they secured 100,000 signatures on a petition about the illness, it was debated in Parliament. As someone who knows these people through our online campaigning and who admires them like you wouldn't believe, we thought that one of our mottos, 'Hope is Contagious', would actually catch on.
Soon afterwards a drug was put on to the Cancer Drugs Fund list that brought a great deal of hope to sufferers of pancreatic cancer and their families - Abraxane. Abraxane is a drug that was most commonly associated with the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, but trials showed that it had beneficial effects in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, and in some cases it can prolong life by up to two years.
Now, there may be some of you out there who do not think that two years is a very long time, but in the life, for want of a better word, of a sufferer of pancreatic cancer and their family, it feels like a lifetime. The use of Abraxane allowed patients with advanced pancreatic cancer to resume a normal life, take part in everyday activities and, probably most importantly, to spend extra time with those whom they hold dearest.
This all sounds very positive, doesn't it? Well, on September 4th this year the Department for Health brought the world of pancreatic cancer campaigners crashing down around them as Abraxane was removed from the Cancer Drugs Fund list in England. It is there in Wales, it is there in Scotland, but sufferers in England have had the rug pulled out from under them, and what makes it worse is that no reason has been given.
Of course there has been little coverage of this in the media, as many other things are happening. There has, however been the creation of a petition to ask NHS England and the Department of Health to review this decision as a matter of urgency. On 4 days it has received the 10000 signatures it needs to get a reply from the government, but ideally it needs 100000 signatures in total to be debated in parliament so the government can actually explain why this action has been taken.
You can find the petition here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/107388
In the 1970s the 5 year survival rate for pancreatic cancer was just 3%. In September 1989, almost exactly 26 years years ago, when my father died, it was 3%. Here and now, in 2015, it is 3%.
The government appears to be turning the lights off on pancreatic cancer. Maybe they consider it too big an issue to deal with, or insignificant. Who knows? They don't tell us.
One thing's for sure, though, the Purple Army will fight on!
Please support the Purple Army at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/107388