11 Dec 2020

Frank Heaton from Burtonwood has had quite a year. When he noticed his eyes and skin turn a strange yellow colour, he immediately called his GP in St Helens to get it checked out.

After a blood test and an MRI scan at St Helens and Knowsley Hospitals NHS Trust; Frank (77) received the news that he in fact had pancreatic cancer. He was quickly referred to the Royal Liverpool Hospital (part of Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) for surgery; who had made special arrangements to keep patients safe during the first wave of COVID-19.

Thanks to a new patient pathway that kept pancreatic cancer patients completely isolated from other patients, reducing their risk of contracting the virus, the team at the Royal were able to make sure that a few patients as possible had their life-saving treatments delayed.

This was a great relief to Frank, who had initially been told that his surgery could be cancelled: “When I heard I was going in on the day originally planned, I thought it was exceptional treatment,” Franks remembers.

“During my stay, due to COVID 19 each bed in the ward had hand-sanitizers at the foot of the bed, the nurses and doctors were brilliant with the way they went about keeping everything so clean. I was a silver patient! I felt completely safe during my stay there.”

Although there was no family visits allowed, Frank could keep touch via mobile phone and the team would update his wife and daughter daily.

After some rest and Physio, Frank went home after seven days. By then, he found any pain was quite manageable; and then set upon a course of chemotherapy at the brand new Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Liverpool.

“I came to the special clinic set up at Broadgreen Hospital where I first saw the doctor just two weeks after going home. My daughter was allowed to come and we both wore masks.

“Although it was all very technical for someone without a medical degree, the doctor told us the results in a way we understood, even going so far as to draw some pictures!

“I needed chemotherapy – at Clatterbridge - to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be, to be honest.

“Once again, I cannot thank the staff at the Royal Liverpool Hospital and Clatterbridge enough for their superb dedication to my welfare, and fighting for my operation to go ahead.”

Dr Liz Bishop, Senior Responsible Officer for the Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance said: “It’s wonderful to hear that Frank is getting back to full health. I’m very fortunate to work alongside so many fantastic NHS colleagues right across Cheshire and Merseyside who have worked together seamlessly to help Frank at his time of greatest need; and who continue to delivery first class cancer care, even while we adjust to working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I would urge anyone who has any symptoms that they’re worried about to do exactly what Frank did, and contact their GP as soon as possible. If they need treatment for cancer, they can be assured that our hospitals and facilities across Cheshire and Merseyside have been made as safe as possible; and that our doctors and nurses have the expertise to help them at every stage of their cancer journey.”

Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and medical director for primary care for NHS England, said: “If you or a loved one has one of these symptoms, please don’t ignore them. Our message to you is clear – you are not a burden and we are here to safely treat you so please don’t delay – help us help you and come forward as you usually would for care.

“Cancer is easier to treat when it is caught at an earlier stage and so coming forward for a check could save your life.”

Visit nhs.uk/cancersymptoms for more information.

See Frank’s story below: