Uncle James' pancreatic cancer story

Hi, I’m Uncle James. I’m a Wiradjuri man in my early 60s living in the Central West of NSW, near Wagga Wagga. I had a rare type of cancer called a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour.
Uncle James' pancreatic cancer story

"Both of my grandmothers were part of the Stolen Generation, and I was brought up by maternal grandmother who spoke about how it affected her. This led me to work in Aboriginal politics, although I didn’t fully understand the issues of intergenerational trauma until later in life.

I go to the local Aboriginal Medical Service for most of my health care. I’ve had some recent health issues, like diabetes, high blood pressure and injuries from a car accident. One of the AMS nurses rouses on me to keep up with tests I need done.

In April 2018, I had a blood test and the PSA level was elevated just above normal. Scans showed that I had prostate cancer, but it also found a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour – they said it was very rare, one in a million. I had an operation to remove a large tumour sitting behind my lung, over my spleen. When they were stitching me up, I actually had a heart attack and the next thing I knew, the heart specialist was operating.

During surgery, I saw mum and dad in the afterlife, sitting together in our Holden Torana. They asked if I wanted to join them, but I chose to stay for my wife and kids. It gives me comfort to know they’re waiting on the other side."

“After my operation, a bloke from a local community came to have a cuppa and a yarn with me … I would love to see more Indigenous staff involved in cancer care.”;Uncle James, pancreatic cancer patient share block quote

 

"I now have scans and see the cancer specialist about every three months. Unfortunately, Wagga Wagga doesn’t have nuclear imaging, so I have to drive an hour to Albury for PET scans. 

There’s a speck of cancer on my liver that I want out next.

I’ve given up smoking and drinking and improved my diet, and I hound my brothers and sisters about quitting smoking. I’m passionate about our mob living longer and getting good care."

“Many people from our community find hospitals distressing. They are often terrified by authority and anyone in a uniform, and some lose the plot and start screaming. Cultural awareness training is a must for all healthcare professionals so they are aware of the underlying issues that could be causing stress.”;Uncle James, pancreatic cancer patient share block quote

 

Key tip

  Uncle James's story helped shape the new state-wide Cancer Plan

The NSW Cancer Plan sets out a coordinated and collaborative approach to cancer control with the aim of lessening the burden of cancer in NSW. Uncle James' story has helped shape the new state-wide Cancer Plan which will take effect from 2022. 

Learn more about the new NSW Cancer Plan and keep informed on the latest updates by subscribing to our monthly e-News.