“If I can help someone else who is going through cancer and perhaps make a difference to their life then I want to do so.”
Bernadette Jukes was diagnosed with peritoneal cancer in 2010. This is a rare cancer, linked to ovarian cancer, that develops in a thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen.
The Walsall Healthcare receptionist and admin worker, who is based in the Clinical Measurement Unit, had chemotherapy treatment, a hysterectomy and cancer removed from near to her stomach.
“I was asked about taking part in research and was prescribed a trial drug to see if it would help with my cancer,” said Bernadette, aged 57.
“It was explained to me that I may, however, need a blood transfusion due to the reaction it can cause in your immune system and I must admit I was petrified about this happening. As it happened, I needed two transfusions in the end but the team were so caring and reassuring – they set up the transfusion behind me so I could put it out of my head and approach it as though I was having chemotherapy. That really helped me.”
She took part in the Neoadjuvant Extended Sequential Chemotherapy with Adjuvant Postoperative treatment for Epithelial non-mucinous advanced inoperable peritoneal malignancy (Neo-ESCAPE) trial.
This offered the use of Gemcitabine at different stages of treatment, either for six cycles of pre-surgery chemotherapy or six cycles of post-surgery chemotherapy. The purpose was also to establish the feasibility and tolerability of giving 12 cycles of chemotherapy in patients with this disease type.
The results of this study showed that giving Gemcitabine after surgery, in combination with other chemotherapy, was tolerable and feasible for patients. This has ensured that patients with this condition have treatments that are less likely to affect overall quality of life and limit adverse side effects of treatment.
Bernadette, who has two sons and is a grandmother, said cancer had unfortunately affected her family as her mother died after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer and her father had stomach cancer.
“I think that’s what made me so open to the idea of research and taking part in a trial,” she said.
“What I have done might not make a difference to me but it could mean someone else in the future or their family doesn’t have to go through what I’ve been through. This International Clinical Trials Day I think it’s important to stop and think about what we can all do to help others.”