Stella Rochford passed away eight weeks after being diagnosed with a “silent cancer”.

Her husband, Niall, explained that they didn’t connect the symptoms she was experiencing to pancreatic cancer, which is one of the world’s deadliest cancers.

He shared that she had been experiencing pain in her abdomen and back and had received a diagnosis of early on-set diabetes.

Read more: Dublin woman shares signs of 'silent cancer' as mum died 8 months from diagnosis

However, that idea that Stella had pancreatic cancer didn’t enter their minds, which is a common occurrence for people who later find out they have the disease.

He told RSVP Live: “Even when Stella had the symptoms, pancreatic cancer wasn’t on our radar. Even at the very end, when we got the diagnosis on that day, 20 May, on that morning we thought Stella would be sent to have a scan and that we’d find out that she had an ulcer - that there was nothing more sinister than that.

“We received the diagnosis that day and eight weeks later she passed away because it was so late that it ravaged Stella and us as a family.

“It was devastating, the turmoil - that will live with us forever.”

The symptoms people need to look out for are: tummy pain or back pain, digestive problems, jaundice, noticeable change in bowel habits, a new diagnosis of diabetes or diabetes that’s getting harder to control and unexplained weight loss.

Stella and Niall Rochford
Stella and Niall Rochford

Stella herself had been dealing with some symptoms of pancreatic cancer, but wasn’t aware of what they pointed to.

“Our experience was that Stella started having abdominal pain around August 2021. She went to a doctor in October and nothing sinister was detected,” her husband said.

“There was a report of early on-set diabetes, which is now a red flag when you combine it with the abdominal pain. She also had some back pain and fatigue.

“When you connect all of those together, those are potential signs of pancreatic cancer. All we are trying to do is encourage people who are experiencing any of those symptoms to seek medical advice as soon as they can.”

Niall highlighted the importance of recognising the symptoms early and going to your GP, as the survival rates of pancreatic cancer are low as it kills five in every six people diagnosed with it.

“The consultant was quite direct with us. He said, ‘I don’t have good news’. He explained that Stella had two significant tumours and they were non-curable and non-treatable.

“That was when our grief started. I will never, ever forget that moment for as long as I live. That was harrowing.

“The consultant was very direct, because he had to be. There was no other way. We knew there and then that it was non-treatable and non-curable, but we didn’t know how long Stella would have.

“There’s a 5% chance of living to a particular time in life and the whole time I was thinking how could we be that particular 5%. I know that Stella was more accepting of her diagnosis than I was.

“It was the week before Stella passed that I was told she only had days to live. I was still hoping that we could get some quality time for her.”

“We spoke about Stella’s passing together. Stella had plans to write letters to her children and she had plans to put together memory boxes, but her condition just deteriorated rapidly.”

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