Cancer of Unknown Primary Awareness Week

The Hidden Killer: Cancer of Unknown Primary

My daughter Megan died of cancer of unknown primary (CUP) more than six years ago. She was 32. At the time we, the family, had never heard of cancer of unknown primary. And so, during her illness there was a desperate and unsuccessful attempt to discover what type of cancer she was suffering from.

Emotional roller coaster

It was an emotional roller coaster experience, from the terrible shock of the first diagnosis of cancer in a healthy young woman, the mother of a 20-month-old baby, to the death of my daughter a mere four months later. During that time there were feelings of hope when some cancers where ruled out – it wasn’t ovarian cancer after all, the doctors said – to total despair as she suffered and became increasingly weak.

During that time, it became apparent that no-one really knew what to do. We believed that if only the medical people could discover the source of her cancer, then she could be treated. We were frantic. At no time did anyone ever tell us that sometimes it was just not possible to discover what type of cancer a person is suffering from.

Help to spread the word about cancer of unknown primary

That was more than six years ago. Today, the Cancer of Unknown Primary Foundation http://www.cupfoundjo.org/says that most people are still unaware that such a condition can exist. And yet thousands of people in the UK receive this ‘bewildering and frightening’ diagnosis every year. The foundation wants to change this situation and is asking everyone to make ten more people aware of CUP in the following ways:

  • sharing the Awareness Week message on the CUP Foundation Facebook Page with your friends and asking them to share it with theirs. If you are not on Facebook then please copy the link and send it on to 10 of your friends by email.
  • selling 10 or more of the CUP lapel badges and /or CUP wristbands. (£1 each – see the foundation website for supplies).
  • wearing your CUP badge or wristband and chatting with 10 or more friends/acquaintances about CUP to raise awareness of the disease.
Cancer of Unknown Primary Foundation lapel badge

CUP lapel badge

CUP is the 5th highest cause of cancer death in the UK. I heard about it a few weeks after my daughter died. How I wish I had known about it earlier. We had been stumbling around in the dark, clutching at straws. I will always feel that knowing about CUP would have helped us all to cope with the last few weeks of my daughter’s life in a different and better way.

Helping others through Megan’s poetry

My daughter, Megan Young, was an equine veterinary surgeon and, also, a poet. During her illness she wrote this poem. It has been published in a book about her life and has also been used on this website before. I am publishing it again here because I believe that the words she wrote may help others.

Live and Let Live (in which Megan addresses her tumour)

As I am one of God’s children, you must also be.

You find your niche according to His law, somewhere in me.

And, as Darwin predicted, you will struggle and strive

And I shall endeavour to keep us both alive.

I don’t suggest it’s your fault, though neither is it mine,

That some mutation of your code made you thus malign.

But, given that you are my flesh, my blood, my own,

Not so very different from my precious baby son,

Supposing that you crept, spider-like, back into your hole.

I should not wish you harm for harm’s sake,

I’d let you live, I’d coexist with you, each in our quiet way.

No need for enmity or spite. It’s not a war.

©Megan Young, October 2009 (after diagnosis)


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