Why I'm Running for Pancreatic Cancer UK

When you’re sitting, waiting with fragile hopes, in a hospital room for relatives, it’s brutal to be told instead, ‘the operation was a complete success – but we couldn’t remove the cancer.’ On October 5th I’m taking part in the Cardiff Half Marathon for the fourth time, but on this occasion I’m also aiming to raise as much money as possible for Pancreatic Cancer UK. Pancreatic cancer is known as the ‘silent’ killer because many of its symptoms reflect less serious illnesses meaning that by the time diagnosis is confirmed it’s often too late – which is what happened to my dad. The Whipple procedure, the major surgery he withstood, which might have prolonged his life, came too late. 

I’m afraid I can’t provide photos of sad kittens or cute puppies to make my chosen cause seem more appealing. Pancreatic cancer isn’t very pretty, it’s cruel, it ravages strong beautiful bodies and is no respecter of fame, talent or fortune. Here, instead, are a few illustrations of what the disease took away from him, and ultimately, from us.

This is my dad’s last pair of glasses complete with his fingerprints. Light Titanium frames with sprung sides and high-index lenses. On a ‘cost per wear’ basis they were never going to be a good investment, but medication combined with the dying of his own light had played cruel tricks with his vision. But my dear friend, Jill, Best Optom in the World, did her best for him and this pair gave him a few more weeks of reading pleasure – not the dense, academic tomes he’d previously relished, perhaps, but at least he could read a newspaper, engage with the world a little and enjoy his stamp collection. After his death, they came to me. When I opened the case there was another slip of paper placed beneath the cleaning cloth. Phone numbers. Waypoints for the final path. Mum’s mobile, my sister, our husbands, my two grown-up daughters and me.

This a set of book cases Dad made for me. He was a carpenter and joiner, often called in by architects when they needed someone with traditional skills who could make oak staircases, roof lanterns or sash windows.

The back pain he suffered with pancreatic cancer was relieved a little when he leaned forwards. He made himself this lectern so he could read sitting at a table. It now sits on my desk.

This block also sits on a corner of my desk. It’s an intensely personal and profoundly moving object. What is it? Well, it’s one of a pair, the last things Dad made for himself which were designed to keep his bed at a more comfortable angle during his final weeks.


And this is the man we loved, lost and miss every day. One of a kind, Arthur Stovell.

Pancreatic cancer is the fifth leading cause of all UK cancer deaths, but research into the disease is extremely underfunded and survival rates have not improved in forty years. It’s too late for my dad, but someone else’s dad might live longer if those survival rates improve. Please help if you can. You can find my JustGiving page here

Thank you for taking the time to read this post.


Kathryn Freeman said…
Oh my goodness Chris - what a beautifully moving post. Really, did you have to make me cry?! Dads are so very special and I'm sure he's looking down on you now and looking very, very proud.
Clare Chase said…
I was so moved to read your post, Chris, and send lots of sympathy. I'm filled with admiration for your positive action in response to what you've been through.
Irish Eyes said…
As always Chris, your wonderful way with words has highlighted the effects cancer, be it pancreatic or otherwise, has on those it comes to and the ripple effect on those who love those affected. As a result of your very moving blog, I shall be making a donation to the relevant Irish charity. Cancer knows no border, no region and no sympathy and I feel that if everyone who has read your very moving blog donated something they can afford in their own region, maybe somewhere along the line someone will benefit.

What a wonderfully talented artist your Dad was. His work as shown in your photographs is beyond mere everyday carpentry; his eye for the wood and his perfection in his craft shines through. He would be so proud of you. We are.
Chris Stovell said…
Sorry, Kate. it's probably evoked sad memories for you too. Dads, eh?!

Oh, Clare - thank you, and for your very generous donation which is much appreciated.

Thank you, IE. As I wrote to Clare, I feel as if I've been banging on about this and shaking my virtual tin at the world, but I might as well use this chance to help make a tiny difference if I possibly can. xx
Trish Orton said…
Lovely post, Chris. It brought back a lot of memories of your dad. He was a lovely man. Pat
Chris Stovell said…
You and David were very special to him too, Trish. I know how much he enjoyed seeing you. Cx
Laura E. James said…
Beautiful and moving. xx
Chanpreet said…
This is beautiful post Chris. Thank you for sharing pictures of his work. He was definitely a master craftsman and it shows in his work.

I will be sure to make a donation to the American chapter. I do hope you meet your personal goals when it comes to fundraising and run a successful race.
Chris Stovell said…
Thank you, Laura. x

Chanpreet, thank you for this. x
Jan Brigden said…
Chris, what a beautifully moving post. Your love for your Dad positively bounces off each sentence you've written. He sounds like a wonderful man and must have been so proud to have an equally lovely, kind, caring daughter in you. I wish you every success with your race. Love Jan xxx
Chris Stovell said…
Thank you, Jan - and for your kind support of my cause. Cxx
Flowerpot said…
I'm in floods reading that. Lovely post Chris thanks for bringing that to our attention. xx
Chris Stovell said…
And thank you, Sue for your very kind donation. Cx
Liz Harris said…
What a very moving post, Chris. Your father sounds a very special person, and while he has his immortality through you, you must miss his presence dearly. xx

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