Gavin Oattes lost his father to pancreatic cancer eight years ago
An author and former stand-up comedian revealed the motivation which led him to front a powerful new television advert.
Gavin Oattes lost his superhero dad to pancreatic cancer eight years ago.
Gavin said: “My dad was amazing. He was my hero. When he died, it put a lot of stuff into perspective. It made me reassess, rethink and reimagine a lot of things in my life at the time.”
November is pancreatic cancer awareness month and Thursday 19 November marks World Pancreatic Cancer Day.
To coincide with these events, Pancreatic Cancer Action Scotland (PCAS) together with STV and producer Proud Motion have produced a powerful new television advert, which will start screening during prime-time television from today (Monday 16 November).
The advert features Gavin and displays a clear and stark message. The charity behind it has been driven by the need to make the 2020s the decade of change for pancreatic cancer and to try to reach as many people as possible.
The author from Troon in Ayrshire, who now lives in Edinburgh, is managing director of motivational workshop and training company, Tree of Knowledge.
This year he published his book called Life Will See You Now, and dad Eric is mentioned.
Health concerns forced Eric into early retirement from his job as a quantity surveyor. He was however excited about getting through his huge bucket list of plans.
But Eric’s health didn’t improve. He had persistent indigestion, one of the symptoms which could indicate pancreatic cancer, and it didn’t go away with treatment. Gavin said – “even Superman gets – heartburn, probably just some stray kryptonite.”
The family received the devastating news that Eric had pancreatic cancer. He was told he could have six months to live, if he was lucky. Eric battled on for 16 months, he was 65 when he passed away.
In his book Gavin asks: “What do you say to Superman when you realise he’s not invincible?”
Seeing his hero suffer in the way he did, drove Gavin to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer – a disease he knew nothing about until his dad’s diagnosis.
As well as fronting the TV advert, Gavin has fundraised for PCAS and he’s joined the charity's Scottish development committee, a group determined to drive real change for patients and families in Scotland affected by the disease.
Eric’s death also taught Gavin lessons about life. The motivational speaker has a philosophy of living life to the full. His book is a straight-talking humorous take on how to appreciate the simplest of things.
Gavin said: “My dad helped me to remember that life is for living and to get stuck in about the moment and he’s also made me determined to make a difference for others. I really hope this advert reaches people and raises awareness of pancreatic cancer, and helps to save lives.”
PCAS invested in this hard-hitting symptom awareness campaign because this year it’s even more critical to reach more people.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to increased challenges. From a reduction in the number of people contacting their GPs, to sustained falls in the levels of diagnostic techniques such as endoscopy, difficulties to fully restoring treatment options to pancreatic cancer patients and the impact of shielding.
For those delaying seeing their doctor, or facing long waits for diagnostics or treatments, their cancer may grow or spread. This has a knock-on effect on treatment options and survival.
Early diagnosis is key to survival. With no current screening test or early detection method, being aware of the symptoms and risks of pancreatic cancer and acting quickly on any persistent symptoms can make all the difference.
Fiona Brown, development manager of PCAS, said: “Pancreatic cancer doesn’t present in an obvious way. It’s not possible to feel a lump like other cancers and the symptoms can be vague, poorly understood and often dismissed as less serious health concerns. However, with earlier diagnosis and optimal treatment, patients can have the best chance of survival and through our awareness activities, we hope to encourage people to look out for potential warning signs.”
Fiona added: “We are very grateful to Gavin volunteering to be in the powerful advert, openly sharing the raw emotion of his experience of sadly losing his dad to pancreatic cancer. We hope the advert encourages people to take action in learning more about pancreatic cancer and ultimately help save lives.”
PCAS is dedicated to the people of Scotland whose lives have been touched by pancreatic cancer and associated tumours. Their mission is to improve survival rates of pancreatic cancer by ensuring more people are diagnosed early and that everyone has access to effective treatments, support, information and care.
For information on Pancreatic Cancer Action Scotland visit the charity's website.