Bury St Edmunds woman who beat cancer urges others to keep getting themselves checked out
A Bury St Edmunds woman who shifted careers to work for Macmillian Cancer Support is urging others to keep getting themselves checked out after her own intuition and perseverance led to a pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
Pat Kozaryn, 63, was diagnosed back in 2016 after a back and forth process wherein at one stage severe stomach pains that had subsided were dismissed by her GP, because pancreatic cancer can be symptomless for a long time.
Pat's mother died over 30 years ago after battling the same form of cancer, and in that knowledge Pat insisted on getting a blood test which showed something up. She was then referred for a CT scan which revealed the cancer.
“When I heard that news, my world just fell apart,” Pat said.
“I had a cup of water in my hand and my body just reacted - my hand flew up and the water flew all over the room. It was instant tears; I was beside myself. It was devastating news, especially given my mum had died of it.
“Telling my son was one of the worst days of my life.”
Pat was successfully operated on but struggled with her mental health afterwards during recovery.
She said her ‘turning point’ came after she attended the Macmillan HOPE course at West Suffolk Hospital where she could talk to people about her ongoing struggles.
After beating the disease in 2017, two years later she found herself volunteering to work on that same course after she had retired from a successful career in banking, spending the last 13 years of her career as a business development manager for Clydesdale Bank.
Now, she is Macmillan survivorship coordinator at the Macmillan Centre in the hospital where she offers the same help and advice she received herself.
She said: “Patients feel they can open up to me because they know about my background, what I’ve been through. One lady told me “you know what I’m feeling, you know what it’s like” and it’s true.”
Pat said she was ‘determined’ to share her story as a reminder for people to continue to get checked out, despite the ongoing health crisis.
She said working during the pandemic had ‘brought it’s challenges’ but that the team had managed to maintain a presence that was reassuring for people coming in for cancer treatment. She said for patients to just be able to come in and have a chat helped them to be at ease.