Vooey was the nickname of a staunch Aussie bloke, Bondi's Blake Hansen a Watsons Bay boy originally. He lost a fierce battle with pancreatic cancer in July 2016. He was well known for his boyish enthusiasm and irrepressible spirit. He was only 44 years old, a big guy who was a big wave charger and marathon ocean swimmer. He'd had worsening back pain for some years, next thing his health rapidly deteriorated and then he was gone.
In memory Vooey has been formed by Blake's wife to work with the Pancare Foundation to raise awareness, educate and support those affected by pancreatic cancer.
Our mission is to improve the quality of life of pancreatic cancer patients, carers and their families by raising awareness, improving early detection and sustaining hope.
We are focusing initially on educating men. Those who are at high risk with an inherited predisposition for pancreatic cancer. Those who suffer a general feeling of being unwell and are in pain but do not communicate these feelings to their doctor. The strong stoic "she be right mate" Aussie bloke.
In some families the sons and grandsons of women who have battled female cancers may have inherited a BRAC1 or BRAC2 gene mutation. If there is a history of bowel cancer in the family there is also a higher risk. Make sure your GP is aware of your family history and checks regularly for cancer markers in your blood. Look at your lifestyle and nutrition you can improve your resilience. We will have lots more information
If your mother or grandmother had breast or ovarian cancer you may be eligible for genetic screening. The Austin Hospital in Victoria and St Vincent’s Hospital in NSW are the only sites in Australia with a pancreatic cancer screening program. They are determining the effectiveness of screening for early pancreatic tumours in people with an inherited predisposition with ultrasounds.
Pancreatic cancer is typically diagnosed at an advanced stage, when there is a poor prognosis for long-term survival. Early detection is vital to improved survival rates. Vooey was diagnosed when the disease was at an extremely advanced phase. He had multiple tumours in the liver and the lymphatic system, totally inoperable. The chemotherapy he was offered was pallative. It helped reduce pain, but left a harsh legacy on his already weakening body. It did not halt the cancer's growth, existing tumours increased in size and it spread to his spleen, spine and kidney within five months. Vooey stayed staunch for seven months, struggling to smile as his body wasted away.
In 2016 pancreatic cancer surpassed breast cancer and became the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. In Australia it is the fourth most common cause of cancer death overall. Current projections suggest that within 10 years, pancreatic cancer will be the second-highest cause of cancer death in the US and Australia as mortality and survival from the other four leading causes of cancer death (lung, bowel, prostate, and breast cancers) improves.
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma remains one of most lethal cancers. Over two thirds of those diagnosed pass within the same year as diagnosis. Survival rates have not improved significantly in fifty years, with only 7% of patients surviving beyond 5 years. Research is starting to gain momentum but a lot more work is needed.
Sadly, the majority of pancreatic cancer patients show only vague symptoms and Doctors may not be informed and/or aware of the signs. Recognising the combination of early warning signs can help save your life. Whilst they all may present as minor irritations which many an Aussie bloke would not even communicate to there GP, it is their persistence and the combination which is important. Don't be tempted to explain them away....
- A general feeling of being unwell or want Doctors call malaise
- chronic and persistent back pain
- nonspecific persistent abdominal pain
- bloating accompanied with heartburn/indigestion
- dermatitis /itchy skin
- weight loss
- changing appetite
- dark urine
- discoloured stools
- nausea and vomiting
- changes to skin and eye colour (jaundice).
A Message From Susan Hansen
My husband Blake was only 44 when he was diagnosed with extremely advanced metastic pancreatic cancer in January 2016. Blake was in agony and I managed to get him to agree to come with me to the hospital. He still wanted to be home in bed, it took all my powers to keep him sitting in that emergency waiting room. It was the night David Bowie passed from the same disease, when we discovered something sinister was happening
Well known for his boyish enthusiasm and irrepressible spirit Blake was described as a "loveable rogue" by an old friend Ben Davies. He was quite the local character. A Bondi bloke and Watsons Bay boy. A rogue with grit and determination. Striving always to do his best for his family and his mates.
The big man was very healthy, a big wave surfer and marathon ocean swimmer. It was very hard to accept this betrayal by his body. He had suffered so many signs and symptoms in the previous years silently and stoically. We were grieving as we fought the most lethal My mother In-law Judith battled Ovarian cancer for 13 years before passing at the age of 79 in February.
Too late we discovered this fact meant Blake was high risk, with a genetic predisposition to pancreatic cancer given this family history.
When communicating his passing to others I learnt of other men who had similar challenges with so very precious little time. Blakey fought seven months from diagnosis, two more than the national average.
Dedicated to his survival as his full time carer, luckily I had some familiarity with nutrition, complementary therapies and ability to navigate the medical system. The multi disciplinary team at Kinghorn Cancer Centre were great. The palliative care team from St Vincent's hospital where an amazing support helping me nurse Blake at home. It was not enough. Pancreatic cancer is the most lethal of all tumors with only 7% of patients surviving five years.
As Blake became weaker, there where times when he craved bloke energy, too much time with just the wife is not good for any man. When you are almost bedridden this is not an easy thing to achieve.
It is very clear to me that Australia needed better ways to provide practical support for men affected by pancreatic cancer. With a mission to improve earlier detection and raise awareness of inherited predisposition and warning signs.
Vooey's mission is to raise awareness for earlier detection and fundraise to do something very practical to support patients. There are a myriad of support groups yet my husband was a private shy person at the best of times. He preferred his own company when not feeling well.
We want to place Vooey Vans in communities across Australia, these will be like a mobile men's shed, equipped with manual arts and virtual reality gear. Wheelchair accessible. Giving blokes an escape from the house with some mindful and enjoyable activities.
Vooey was my husband's radio handle and came from his love of the big wave break known as Voodoos near Cape Solander in Sydney's southern beaches.
Pancreatic cancer doesn’t care how old you are, where you live, whether you’re a roadie, storeman, a celebrated businessman like Steve Jobs from Apple or an infamous singer like David Bowie. It is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related mortality in Australia and the United States and is expected to become the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths by 2030. .
Please help us establish Vooey as an association that supports, educates and wages a war of courage and hope for Australian men.
Together, we can make a difference.