World Pancreatic Cancer Day: Living with pancreatic cancer

Mohammed Ahsan
Addenbrooke’s patient opens up about healing power of nature after pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

An Addenbrooke’s cancer patient says the healing power of nature, and going for daily walks around the Colleges of the University of Cambridge are helping him live with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

Mohammed Ahsan, 67, was diagnosed with the disease a year ago in November 2022. His consultant could not say how long he had to live, but estimated around six months.

Shortly after receiving the news, the father-of-five from Bottisham, Cambridge, was in a lot of pain, had no energy or focus and had no motivation to get out of bed, get dressed, or do anything for himself.

But, one day, in what he describes as a “eureka moment”, Mohammed decided he must find a way out of his “patient mentality” and start doing things for himself again.

"That day changed everything. I realised that was not the way to live and I needed to make every day enjoyable and make it beautiful for me,” said Mohammed.

“I needed to generate endorphins which I knew would make me feel better."

Mohammed started leaving the house again and began taking short walks each day to build up strength in his legs.

He often visits Cambridge University Colleges and their private gardens with his brother, and believes a change of environment, seeing nature, flowers and being active outdoors has made a major psychological difference to him. “It opened up a whole new world for me. The walks gave me a reason to get out of bed each day,” he said.

Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital, the future specialist cancer hospital for the East of England, is being designed with nature, and the outdoors at its heart, with an open-air courtyard, gardens and natural-light spaces planned for patients and staff to enjoy.
The project is currently working with the CUH Arts team to deliver creative consultation work with patients and staff, using artwork to design a welcoming, reassuring and positive healing environment that reflects the world-class expertise and high quality of care that will be offered at the facility.

“It’s a great idea to have an outside-in approach, and to bring nature into the hospital and grounds,” said Mohammed.
“There’s lots of lessons to be learnt from wildlife and flowers, they’re critical to support wellbeing, mental and physical health.”

Due to Mohammed’s type of cancer, he was unable to have surgery but has been having rounds of chemotherapy since his diagnosis.

In July 2023, he walked his daughter down the aisle at her wedding - a day Mohammed thought he would never see.

"It was an amazing day. I didn’t think I would make her wedding and that was one of the main things that worried me,” he said.
“But with the amazing treatment and fantastic team at Addenbrooke’s, I could stand up, greet hundreds of guests, and walk my daughter down the aisle. I had full energy for the whole day."

A year on from his diagnosis, Mohammed’s cancer is now stable, which he says is “the best news you can possibly have” for his type of cancer.

Mohammed hopes that, by sharing his experiences, he can support and bring hope to other patients living with cancer.

"Find things that bring you pleasure and happiness and spend time doing that,” he said.

“Day by day you need to enjoy it, don’t look too far ahead. Live for today. Tackle cancer in day-by-day pleasures.”

To mark World Pancreatic Cancer Day this Thursday 16 November, staff and patients across the Cambridge Biomedical Campus are being encouraged to learn more about the symptoms of pancreatic cancer, risk factors and the importance of earlier detection through a number of activities organised by Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre, Cambridge University Hospitals, CUH Arts and the Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital project:

  • A panel of experts and patients will be answering questions on the day-to-day management of pancreatic cancer in an online webinar from 08:30-09:30, hosted by the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre Pancreatic Cancer Programme.
  • A ‘Hello Pancreas quiz (produced in collaboration with Jreissati Pancreatic Centre at Epworth in Australia and Botton-Champalimaud Pancreatic Cancer Centre in Lisbon, Portugal), and creative activities helping to shape the future Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital are taking place in Addenbrooke’s Outpatients Department from 10:30-13:30.
  • A cake and plant sale to raise funds for pancreatic cancer research is taking place in the reception area of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute (Li Ka Shing Centre, Robinson Way, CB2 0RE) from 11:00-15:00.
16 Nov 2023