Ray Heidke and his two children months before being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
By Haley Jaram (sister of Ray Heidke).
On December 23, 2013 my family’s life changed forever. See, while others were excitedly running around organizing last minute gifts and loading the pantry full of food, my older brother Ray was told this would be his last Christmas alive. At just 37 years of age he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, so aggressive and advanced that he had no chance to fight it. And we had no time to accept it.
For four months leading up to that fateful day, Ray had been presenting to emergency with back pain, chronic heartburn, indigestion, weight loss and vomiting. Initially diagnosed with pancreatitis, Ray was none the wiser due to the lack of awareness surrounding this insidious cancer. Finally, after having a biopsy and CAT scan, Ray was told he had metastatic pancreatic cancer – and only three to six months to live. Merry Christmas to us!
For the next 87 days my brother suffered severely. Between the unrelenting pain, constant nausea and vomiting, plus knowledge that he would never see the loves of his life again – his two young children – I couldn’t help but wish that he had been diagnosed with a cancer that he might of have had a chance of beating.
On March 20 2014, my big brother, role model, best friend and hero, Ray John Heidke lost his very short battle with pancreatic cancer. To say the world lost a great man on that day is an understatement. Pancreatic cancer does not discriminate, and takes no prisoners. It’s ruthless, unapologising and lonely. And last year, it killed another 2248 Australians just like my brother.
It’s now been a few months since Ray’s passing and I feel completely lost and empty. Some days I am unable to see how I will ever fill the void that has been left behind by my brother, but I also know that with a less than a five percent chance of survival, it’s up to families like mine to share our stories and give a voice to those that no longer have one. Because if we don’t, who will?
The Pancare Foundation are working tirelessly to provide pancreatic cancer patients around the country with adequate support and medical treatment so one day we will have a cure. From palliative care and bereavement programs to public campaigning and world-leading research, the work of the Pancare Foundation is paramount to ensuring we don’t continue to suffer at the hands of this deceptive and destructive disease.
I’m taking up the challenge for my big brother Ray, are you?
A TRIBUTE TO MY BIG BROTHER RAY-RAY
Feel no guilt in laughter, he’d know how much you care.
Feel not sorrow in a smile that he not here to share.
You cannot grieve forever; he would not want you to.
He’d hope that you could carry on the way you always do.
So, talk about the good times and the way you showed you cared,
The days you spent together, all the happiness you shared.
Let memories surround you, a word someone may say
Will suddenly recapture a time, an hour a day,
That brings him back as dearly as though he were still here,
And fills you with the feeling that he is always near.
For if you keep those moments, you will never be apart
And he will live forever locked safely within your heart.