Dad diagnosed with rare cancer after experiencing stomach pain
A dedicated son is raising awareness of a rare type of cancer that his dad died of in 2018 after initially thinking it was kidney stones. Andy Spavins, 35, who lives in Burgh Le Marsh, said that his dad, Mark Spavins, was diagnosed with Cholangiocarcinoma on his 55th birthday, on March 4, 2016. Mark lived in Sutton on Sea with his wife and died of Cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer) at age 57 after experiencing pain in his abdomen.
Andy said his dad first started experiencing symptoms in February 2016. He said: “He’d been having some pain at the bottom of his back and abdomen but assumed it was kidney stones as he’d got pain there in the past.” Andy said that his dad woke up with jaundice one morning in February, and was then sent to Boston Pilgrim Hospital who ran scans that determined he had bile duct cancer. : Life in Woodhall Spa – the ‘special’ Lincolnshire town residents and tourists alike love
Andy Spavins (left) with mum Debbie Spavins and dad Mark Spavins. (Image: Andy Spavins)
Andy said: “Although we had a good idea as time went on, it still shocks you when you hear the words from your dad that he has cancer.
He was told that if he didn’t have any treatment at all it would be about 12 months [he would have left to live]. “If he had The Whipple procedure he would have 18 months to two years of chemotherapy. As time went on, you could see him lose more weight after he’d had his operation and struggle to eat and go to the toilet.” Cholangiocarcinoma is a type of cancer that forms in the bile ducts that connects your liver to your gallbladder and small intestine.
Andy said his dad’s urine went extremely dark, he had pale stools and pain under his rib, weight loss and general fatigue. Andy said: “My dad always said he wanted to keep things upbeat and didn’t want it to be a house of doom and gloom. We shared a dark sense of humour. He was obsessed with world war two aircraft and he got to fly in a spitfire and did a few victory rolls in it himself.
“Often we would joke about but it was a pressure release for us both. Sometimes you get so busy with life and stop for a few moments and remember he’s not here now or see footage or a photo of him.” He added: “It can happen at the strangest of times and be really random, I can be sitting at a traffic light and remember my dad isn’t here. It brings a lot of peace at the same time because he’d come to terms with it, he wanted more time but was happy with the time he’d had.
Mark Spavins with his grandaughter Ruby Pacey. (Image: Andy Spavins)
“The biggest effect has been on my mum, my dad was planning on retiring at 58 and they had so many plans on what they were going to do.” Mark sadly left behind his wife, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law and two granddaughters. He was born in Luton and eventually moved to Burgh Le Marsh after being self-employed selling trucks and trailers.
Andy is now dedicated to raising awareness of Cholangiocarcinoma in several ways. He will be taking part in a sponsored firewalk on May 27 in memory of his dad, with all money going towards the AMMF (Alan Morement Memorial Fund), the only charity that specifically represents Cholangiocarcinoma in the UK. He has also started an online government petition to fund research into public awareness of rare and less common cancers, which runs until August 23 2022.
He has also been invited to be a guest speaker at The AMMF conference this month. Andy said: “It’s considered a rare cancer but after volunteering with the charity I’ve been able to see that it affects young people aswell. They’re still trying to get to the bottom of what causes the cancer.
“The information was quite limited at local hospitals but at Queen’s Medical Hospital there were more specialists there. It was one of those things we started looking up and on the AMMF website they have a lot of information.” Helen Morement, CEO of AMMF said: “We are grateful to Andy for his support and for his commitment to raising the awareness of cholangiocarcinoma.
The incidence of cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer) appears to be increasing across all age groups, including younger people, so there is an urgent need for research to find the causes of this disease so we can develop better diagnostic tests and more effective treatments.
“Andy is using the tragedy he and his family experienced in the loss of his father, to raise the awareness of Cholangiocarcinoma, and so help others have a better chance in the future than his father did.”