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Sponsored swim raises awareness

PUBLISHED: 09:33 25 November 2009 | UPDATED: 08:54 01 August 2010

THE family of a woman who died from pancreatic cancer have marked the first ever awareness week dedicated to the disease with a sponsored swim.

Denise Burke, who lost her mother June White, from Norwich, to pancreatic cancer last year, aged 74, said she was shocked about how little the funding and publicity was given to the disease, which has the lowest survival rate of any cancer.

THE family of a woman who died from pancreatic cancer have marked the first ever awareness week dedicated to the disease with a sponsored swim.

Denise Burke, who lost her mother June White, from Norwich, to pancreatic cancer last year, aged 74, said she was shocked about how little the funding and publicity was given to the disease, which has the lowest survival rate of any cancer.

“You never hear about it,” she said. “Until my mum was diagnosed with it I had never heard of it. That's the whole idea of doing the swim in awareness week.”

She said reading the website of the Pancreatic Cancer UK charity prompted her to take action.

“The survival rates of pancreatic cancer haven't changed in 40 years and although it's the fifth biggest cause of cancer deaths they only receive 1pc of the research funding,” she said. “I joined Potters to do gym and swim and thought, I like swimming, I could do a swim.”

Last Saturday, Ms Burke, her sister Deb Thornton, from Dereham, sister-in-law Liz Robb and nieces Shula and Jena White from Norwich, and her best friend Debbie Baker, from Bradwell, took to the water at Potters Leisure Resort in Hopton for the 867-length attempt. The six completed the eight-mile challenge between them - the distance between Spain and Morocco - in just over three hours.

“We did really well - we all felt on a high because we were doing it for mum,” she said. “I could have done it again the next day.”

Ms Burke, who lives in Geldeston near Beccles, has set a target of £1,000, adding: “I will continue to raise money now, it's something close to my heart.”

The money raised by the swimmers will go to Pancreatic Cancer UK, which supports those affected, raises awareness and funds research. It also lobbies to achieve higher priority for pancreatic cancer. According to the charity, just under 7,700 people in the UK are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, of whom 97pc die within five years.

The first ever Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Week - November 16 - 22 has been backed by journalists John Humphrys and Piers Morgan and encourages fundraisers to hold “purple days” events.

In September film actor Patrick Swayze died of the disease, which often has few obvious or specific symptoms at the early stages.

To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/denise-burke

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