IT’S A DIFFICULT time here as we start coming to terms with the passing of Councillor Sue Dearden last weekend.
Many people were aware Sue had been ill for some time, but that knowledge doesn’t diminish the sadness and loss when the inevitable happens.
Sue had been an excellent ward member for Chadderton Central since 2012, but her impact on local life and communities extended way beyond that.
In her professional life she worked as a school teacher and in youth justice, and she was one of life’s ‘doers’ who got involved with causes ranging from education to women’s rights and encouraging people to live healthier lifestyles.
Throughout everything she did, Sue was passionate and drew on her own experiences as a single mum bringing up two boys to challenge the obstacles she saw many people facing in making life better for their families.
Today I have a very small chance to pay her back by helping to champion her final cause.
Sue had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and this is something she made clear that she wanted to raise awareness of in her final days.
She knew there was no hope of a better outcome for herself but, typically, she wanted people to understand more about this disease and its poor profile.
When you look at some of the advances made in treating other forms of cancer in recent times the progress is little short of astonishing.
Did you know, for example, that 40 years ago few children survived childhood leukaemia – yet now the survival rate is 80 per cent? Or that 40 years ago the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer who survived five years or more was just 46 per cent – and now that is also up to 80 per cent?
That’s all fantastic news, clearly, and everyone involved from medical experts to specialist researchers, clinicians, GPs and fundraisers are to be applauded.
But the outcomes for pancreatic cancer are very different.
Every year 9,500 people in the UK are diagnosed and their prognoses are very poor and short.
The survival rates today for patients with pancreatic cancer stand at around 3 per cent – the same as 40 years ago. That is the lowest survival rate for all forms of cancer, and yet it is the fifth most common cause of cancer death, causing five per cent of cancer deaths each year.
One of the reasons is that pancreatic cancer is incredibly difficult to diagnose and treat. Experts say it is unusually aggressive and often has vague symptoms which appear at a late stage when surgery is no longer an option.
The Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund was set up in 2004 and it tries to raise new funds and to argue for a fair allocation of research and attention.
Sue wanted donations to help others in the future, so I would urge you to please spread the word about this cause and do your bit to help.
If you go to sign one of Sue’s Books of Condolence – which are available during normal opening hours in the Rochdale Road reception at the Civic Centre and at Chadderton Wellbeing Centre – then please consider making a donation in the buckets provided.
Alternatively, you can send cheques payable to Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund at PO Box 47432, London, N2 1XP or donate online at www.pcrf.org.uk
You can also sign an online Book of Condolence at our website here.
Sue was always best at encouraging and inspiring the people around her to be positive in every situation, so she would be telling us all now that life must go on.
That’s why I’ll close this week with a reminder about a great event taking place on Friday evening.
Illuminate, our free family late night arts festival, is returning after a successful debut last year.
Spectacular installations, lanterns, landscapes, dancers, drummers and puppets can be enjoyed at sites across Oldham town centre, including Oldham Parish Church, Parliament Square, and Gallery Oldham and Oldham Library, from 6 to 9pm.
My favourite feature is the illumination of the exterior of the Old Town Hall with giant 3D projections. This year the display will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Oldham Theatre Workshop showcasing the history of our acclaimed youth theatre and bringing stories of cast and crew from productions past into stunning focus.
That’s just one of several attractions on offer, so please click here to find out more about Illuminate and take your family along for another great free evening of entertainment.