Belfast man dies after showing cancer symptoms on daughter’s 16th birthday

John Strout was just 47 years old when he died after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two years ago.

A North Belfast man is starting to feel unwell while attending a concert at the SSE Arena.

A few days later, on Tuesday 21 November, his daughter Rosie’s 16th birthday, John went to see his GP who noticed he was “not a good colour” and was sent straight to Antrim Hospital. As the family says in an all-white room, they then noticed John was a luminous yellow, they say, à la Home Simpson.

Read more: The children were left without parents after the death of the spouses for weeks

“The professionals thought he had a blockage somewhere,” said Rosie.

“As it was my birthday we were due to go out to dinner at Deane’s Meat Locker in Belfast. I didn’t expect my dad wouldn’t be able to come. I thought a few days in the hospital would sort it out. It never occurred to me he could have cancer.”

“He was healthy and rarely sick. Ten days later on December 1, 2017, my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, age 44. I felt silly not noticing any symptoms because I had spent so much time with him.”

In January John underwent Whipples, a seven-hour operation, at the Mater Hospital, Belfast, followed by seven months of oral chemotherapy.

A CT scan in April 2019 revealed that John’s cancer had returned and was incurable. This was followed by a period of intravenous chemotherapy and oral chemotherapy before he was referred to palliative care.

Rosie, who is now 20, was 18 when her father died. She is one of a number of children and youth participating in the NIPANC #TimeMatters campaign for Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, who have lost a parent to pancreatic cancer.

They share their stories, so other families don’t have to confront their own traumas.

She added, “Our parents promised us from the start; as soon as they find out the information, we’ll be the first to be told.”

“Their connections kept our family strong. When the CT scan came back the second time around, I was in the middle of my first year of A-levels. My parents kept it a secret so I could stay focused, and then we all told about the day I finished.

“For the last few days he was admitted to a nursing home in Northern Ireland. I was at Uni in London by then, so I came home for what I thought would be two to three days. He stayed over a week, and so did my mum and I. We took turns on Sitting with him, but every day his body was getting weaker.

He died late at night after a long fight.

Rosie says she had never heard of pancreatic cancer because it was not a familiar diagnosis for many people.

“My brother is an avid reader and when he learned of the diagnosis, he researched it. I learned from it and eventually checked it out for myself. I was shocked how often the survival rate was so low due to misdiagnosis and late diagnosis.

Rosie Strout

“Jaundice is one of the main characteristics. I kicked myself for not noticing it earlier. We also thought he had an upset stomach because some foods are different to him. Pain when eating is another common symptom. I am now well educated on the symptoms, but if I knew at the time, there would have been a better chance of survival.

“I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible. Sometimes just sitting with him or making cups of tea or coffee for him. Making tea always reminds me of my dad. He liked it in a certain way with two crushed digestive biscuits with lots of butter.”

“About six months before he died, he told his mom he’d really love another dog. My mom isn’t a fan of dogs. I’ll always remember when she said ‘John, if that makes you happy, we can go find him one.'”

“It was all part of my dad’s master plan. Little Frank, employee arrived in July 2020 and is my mom’s best friend. Sadness is a funny thing. One day I cry over everything, the pictures, the songs, the things that remind me of him. Other days I laugh about the good times And the memories and traits we share.

“When I first found out that my father’s cancer was terminal, I would rage. Why us after all? Why my father? But death doesn’t work that way, it doesn’t discriminate. I’ve learned to channel my feelings into things that will make him proud.

“I worked so hard to get into my favorite university in London. I got a job and took my first year exams eight weeks after he passed. I want to be proud of him. I’m taking part in this #TimeMatters campaign for NIPANC because I think it’s important, if even one person understands Symptoms and severity of pancreatic cancer, this may save life.

“Knowing the symptoms can mean a wider range of treatment and a better chance of survival. If I had known even a few of the most common symptoms, my dad might still be here or he might have been around a little longer. #TimeMatters.”

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