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Mum spent her life helping others and then, without warning, she was gone


Nov 19, 2023

A mum who had "absolutely no symptoms" of cancer died days after her birthday.

Janet Rooney had previously suffered with feelings of "electric surges" in her body and doctors found she had a heart issue. She was later treated with a pacemaker to help her heart beat at a normal rhythm, reports the Manchester Evening News.

Following tests and scans, doctors found something on the mum-of-three's liver which they initially believed to be liver cancer. Sadly, the truth was far worse. The growth was actually a secondary cancer – with her main disease being hepato-pancreato-biliary cancer – these include cancer of the pancreas, liver and biliary system.

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After her diagnosis in November 2022, Janet was referred to The Christie hospital but it was already too late. Her cancer was so advanced she died five months later – just a few days after celebrating her 60th birthday. Reading, Basingstoke, Berkshire

Her devastated husband Mike, from Todmorden, said there were no signs anything was wrong.

Mike said: “There were absolutely no symptoms. It’s a dreadful cancer because it hides itself. It’s so difficult to detect until it’s too late. [Medics] said there were things we could try, which we did, but it wasn’t to be. The cancer was already set in her body.

“It was a short period, really. We found out in September time that she had cancer and she passed away in the April.”

Hepato-pancreato-biliary cancer, or HPB cancer, is a serious form of cancer. In the UK alone, approximately 10,300 cases of pancreatic cancer are recorded every year. However, only one in four survive for one year or more, and just over 7% survive longer than five years.

Mike says the couple had an inkling Janet had cancer when medics revealed they had found another issue. He added: “We’re not unintelligent people. We could tell there was another issue. They wanted to see us and we got jumped to the front of the queue of people waiting to be seen.

“When we sat down, we sat with doctors and nurses. They were trying to break us in slowly. It was dreadful. We knew it was cancer early on. We absorbed it until they officially told us.”

Janet Rooney and Mike Rooney

Sadly, Janet developed several chest infections towards the end of her life and struggled to breathe and walk as the cancer spread to her lungs. A caring and empathetic individual, Mike remembers his wife as someone who was constantly helping others.

He said: “She put other people first. She fought other peoples’ corners. As a young person, she had a place at a music school but didn’t go because she had an older sister who had special needs. She went to the same school so she could help her.

“She worked as a trustee in a community bank to look after people who couldn’t afford to get loans. She worked in a special needs school as a volunteer. At her own expense and time she organised things and got people in much better places."

As a way to honour Janet, Mike has managed to raise an incredible £115k for The Christie Charity to establish The Janet Rooney Fellowship, which is dedicated to advancing research in hepato-pancreatic biliary (HPB) cancer.

Mike, along with his friends Nigel Tobias, David Brooks and Paul Whitehead, recently undertook the challenging 500-mile Camino de Santiago trek across France and Spain. They embarked on the pilgrimage not only to honour Janet’s memory, but also to raise funds for a Fellowship focused on research into HPB, the rare form of cancer from which Janet passed away earlier this year.

The Janet Rooney Fellowship will serve as a lasting tribute to Janet’s memory and will play a crucial role in advancing research into HPB cancer, a condition that poses unique challenges in diagnosis and treatment.

The Fellowship will provide the necessary resources to propel research efforts forward, making a meaningful impact in the field of cancer research and care.

Louise Hadley, chief executive of The Christie Charity said: “We are incredibly grateful to Mike and his friend’s commitment to their fundraising challenges. By funding a research fellow they will not only be honouring Janet’s memory, but also making a very real difference to other patients in the future. Without supporters like them, The Christie would not be able to do the remarkable work it does. We really can’t thank them enough.”

To donate to Mike’s fundraiser, follow the link by clicking here.

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