Emilia’s pilgrimage has special purpose

A CLIFTON woman will this month hike a 100km stretch of a medieval pilgrimage route in memory of her stepdad, who died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 58. 

Emilia Rocky will follow the route, named the Camino de Santiago, that her stepdad Andrzej Bielecki completed himself in 2013.  

She will be accompanied by her mum Suzanne, boyfriend James and stepsister Scarlett. The group are fundraising for the charity Pancreatic Cancer UK.

They will begin in Sarria in Northwest Spain, hiking across Galicia and through historic market towns such as Medlia, Poromarin and Arzua before they reach their final destination of Santiago, where Andrzej’s ashes will be spread on a local beach as he requested. 

Emilia said she wanted to raise money to help provide support for those affected by the disease, as well as fund vital research into early diagnosis and new, more effective treatments.

Andrzej had been struggling with acid reflux for a few years and began to experience a dull pain in his stomach.It was suggested the cause might hernia due to a recent fall,  then doctors thought it might be gallstones and he was booked in for a scan.

Emilia, 26, said: “He got a call the week after his MRI. They told him over the phone that he had pancreatic cancer and that it was likely terminal. I was in disbelief. He had further tests which showed that it had spread to the liver, so they couldn’t offer him chemotherapy. I didn’t understand. Andrzej was a really active, adventurous person, I just thought surely they can try something, and not just give up. It was really difficult to accept.”

Andrezj died at home on February 22 last year, just six weeks after diagnosis.

Emilia said: “When I looked up his symptoms afterwards, one of the first things that came up was pancreatic cancer. It wasn’t even considered for the first few months. Why wasn’t it mentioned? It may not have changed his prognosis, but it could have given us more time to do those things that we wanted to do. Six weeks just wasn’t enough time.”

Emilia said: “We are excited to be doing this in Andrzej’s memory. I think it’ll be a spiritual experience; we will feel so close to him. Although, we are a bit nervous about the walk itself – there hasn’t been lots of preparation!”

 Sue Collins, director of fundraising at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “Currently 7 in 10 people with pancreatic cancer receive no treatment at all – not even chemotherapy. Just 10% of people receive surgery, the only potentially curative treatment. Decades of underinvestment in research has meant that the odds of surviving the disease are no better now than they were 50 years ago. The funds raised by Emilia will help us offer support to patients and families, invest in vital research to help us see the breakthroughs we urgently need, and be a voice for everyone affected by the deadliest common cancer.”

For more information visit www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk/fundraise To sponsor Emilia,go to https://tinyurl.com/2p9fs34r