A WOMAN who beat cancer told how a chance email saved her life.

Susan Rostron from Dorchester was told the rare tumour she had which weighed 11lbs was inoperable. But she later underwent a rare life-changing 12-and-a-half hour op following an email she sent to a hospital which was followed up by a top surgeon.

She spoke about her experience battling pancreatic cancer, which has the lowest survival rates of almost any other cancer, for an awareness campaign.

Susan and others have set up a support group called Pan Pals for sufferers and those who have lost loved ones.

Susan, of Allington Terrace, used to be a primary school headteacher before working for the NHS. Her life then took a different turn when she became interested in pottery then set up Artisan at Poundbury selling locally-made crafts.

She was diagnosed days after signing the lease.

After complaining of stomach pains and following tests in Dorset County Hospital it was revealed she had a malignant inoperable tumour affecting her pancreas.

It was only after she sent an email to Cancer Research UK Centre’s tumour branch at Southampton Hospital inquiring how her tumour could be given to them after her death that consultant surgeon Neil Pearce became interested in her case.

Mr Pearce is one of the country’s leading surgeon’s specialising in pancreatic surgery.

Susan, 58, said: “I discovered my email was forwarded to Mr Pearce and subsequently I got a message saying he was interested in operating.” She added: “On my first visit to Southampton I was told there was a 20 per cent chance I would die. Mr Pearce was very open about the risks.”

The choices she had were three months chemotherapy with no guarantee of success – or ‘extreme surgery’ involving the removal of the pancreas, spleen, stomach and part of the oesophagus.

Susan said: “I was between a rock and a hard place.

“But I said I wanted surgery which I understood had never been done before at the hospital.

“I was told what could go wrong and I said, ‘let’s go for it.’ “They removed a tumour weighing 5kg and measuring 22cm.

“Mr Pearce thinks I had it for 20 years. It is rare and I now understand it has been sent to a research lab in America.”

Susan had a lengthy recovery period in hospital and had to take a gruelling list of medication as well as have numerous daily injections, including for the diabetes that developed following the operation.

She said: “People ask me how I eat without a stomach and it’s the same way as everyone else. But I only eat in small quantities every hour and I take pancreatic enzymes to help digestion. I also have to take antibiotics.”

She added: “I will always have a question mark hanging over me.

“My tumour is likely to reoccur again but at the moment I’m clear.

“I have my ups and downs but I feel a million times better and life is definitely worth living.

“It’s amazing this was all because of an email. Every time I see the consultant he says it’s just as well I sent it.”

How You Can Help Tackle Pancreatic Cancer

PANCREATIC Cancer UK is appealing to the public to raise their involvement in November’s Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month (PCAM), by taking part in the charity’s ‘Raise for Research’ campaign which supports aims to increase survival rates by increased investment in, and focus on, pancreatic cancer research.

Pancreatic cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths in the UK yet receives only 1 per cent of the total research spend.

For more information visit pancreaticcancer.org.uk To request a fundraising pack or awareness posters email pcam@pancreaticcancer.org.uk Information about Susan’s support group will soon be available via panpalsdorset.org