Rochelle had been feeling unwell for quite some time before her diagnosis. Put down to stress, she had very little appetite, was finding it very difficult to eat and was feeling sick constantly.
After seeing several doctors and undergoing numerous tests, Rochelle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. After fighting a long and difficult 16-month battle, Rochelle passed away in August 2014 holding her husband and daughters’ hands.
She was only 57 years old.
When the tumour was discovered, an operation was scheduled to remove the whole pancreas. However, doctors soon found that it was wrapped around the portal vein. In order to shrink and detach the tumour from the vein, Rochelle underwent four cycles of chemotherapy. A subsequent scan found that while the tumour in the pancreas was not growing, it was not shrinking either, and the cancer had spread into Rochelle’s bones and lungs. It was now essentially a matter of prolonging Rochelle’s life through chemotherapy. The cancer was incurable.
During the 16 months, Rochelle underwent a total of thirteen cycles of chemotherapy and 10 intensive days of radiotherapy. She lost her hair, her appetite and a hell of a lot of weight. She couldn’t eat and some days she couldn’t move from her bed. There was never-ending nausea, tingling in her fingertips and constant shivering as a side-effect of the chemotherapy. During the radiation there was continual abdominal pain as the lasers shot through her stomach to get to the pancreas.
However, despite her pain and discomfort she was determined and resilient, and fought on no matter what the cancer threw at her. She would call chemo her ‘friend’ as it was keeping her alive. When she was up to it, she would be out and about having coffee, going shopping and looking after her grandson. Rochelle was a social butterfly, and she was never going to let cancer take her lying down. She fought for one more day, one more week, one more month, one more year. And throughout the 16 months, Rochelle fought for every goal and every milestone.
But there were some happy times too. And each happy moment gave Rochelle something else to live for. Her daughter Jessica got engaged and married, her grandson turned one, there was a family holiday with her husband, children and grandson, her mother turned 80 and her nephew got engaged. Rochelle was determined to celebrate each of these moments, and celebrate we did!
Rochelle was admitted into hospital numerous times throughout the 16 months. Due to fluid build-up, towards the end of her life, Rochelle was undergoing almost weekly drains. Some of these were day-procedures, some overnight. She was exceptionally uncomfortable, bloated and unable to eat.
In mid-July 2014, Rochelle was taken to the hospital by ambulance and diagnosed with pneumonia. Two weeks later, she came home. And we were told there was absolutely nothing further doctors could do. It was now a waiting game and more a matter of keeping Rochelle as comfortable as possible.
The following week, on 3 August, she passed away, in her home, surrounded by almost 20 members of her family. The life of every party, she simply wanted one more.