A 46-year-old fitness fanatic has spoken of his shock at being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and wants to warn others of the signs of the killer disease.

On the August 3 2019, Sean McBrien was in the midst of a fitness event and had no idea that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer.

He had been feeling unwell for a few weeks. Noticing small signs of illness; fatigue, a lingering cough that he couldn’t shake, and weight loss.

Some doctors thought it was potentially gallstone problems.

“The thought of cancer never entered my head. I thought it was gallstones,” the Bellanaleck man said.

Sean was admitted to the Mater Hospital on August 23, 2019 where he underwent an MRI scan which confirmed that he did not have gallstones but there was a tumour growing.

That tumour was later diagnosed as pancreatic cancer which can only be treated with whipple procedure – an operation which removes the head of the pancreas, the first part of the small intestine, the gallbladder and the bile duct.

Only 15 per cent of those who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer can undergo the whipple procedure. Sean said: “Usually people are too far gone, I was stage three when I was diagnosed, and they can’t perform the operation at stage four because at that stage it is too late.” Sean talked through the procedure and said: “The operation took between five or six hours.”

Following the procedure Sean began chemotherapy treatment which involved travelling up to Belfast to see a consultant, bloods checked and the chemotherapy treatment, twice a week every other week for six months.

“You would have a good week with it and then a bad week. You’d have the chemotherapy on a Friday and feel the affects of it the Tuesday after, the tiredness and cramps.”

After his chemotherapy ended, Sean got to see his consultant every three months for updates on his condition.

Sean is a fitness fanatic, an active member of the Mill Runners in Florencecourt and a keen cyclist.

Getting diagnosed with pancreatic cancer aged 45 was a “shock” for him.

“Looking back when they showed me the different symptoms. I realised what it was.”

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer include, fatigue, pain in the back or stomach area, unexpected weight loss, and jaundice.

Sean’s running club are now preparing for a fundraiser to raise funds for Northern Ireland Pancreatic Cancer (NIPANC), the Mater Hospital, and the Bridgewater Suite.

“They offered to run the event and told me they’d been planning it for me and they let me chose the charity. They wanted to wait until after I finished the chemo” said Sean.

The mill runners are running four miles every four hours for 24 hours on September 25 in Stuart’s Car Park.

Some members are even taking on the challenge for 48 hours. They are also hosting a charity cake sale to raise money for the three groups who helped Sean during his treatment in the Millennium Hall in Arney on September 12, 10am – 1pm. All donations for either event can be sent via Paypal to paypal.me/seanscancerfund.

Sean said: “One in two who get it will die from pancreatic cancer, most don’t last more than three months. I want to raise awareness of the cancer but also raise a few pounds for the people who helped me.”