SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — When hundreds packed Suffolk City Council chambers last month to oppose a controversial development proposal, Councilman Roger Fawcett was happy to be in attendance.
It had nothing to do with what was on the agenda. He was just happy to be in chambers, knowing that for the first time in seven months, he was cancer-free.
“I had gotten the all-clear just that morning,” Fawcett said. “You can’t put [the feeling] into words. Cause there are no words.”
The 70-year-old third-term council member was diagnosed with stage 1 pancreatic cancer in January. In the time since he has had surgery as well as an extended hospital stay due to the side effects of chemotherapy.
“I went through heck,” Fawcett said during in interview at his Bennett’s Creek home Wednesday.
However the day he found out he had cancer, he said he felt perfectly fine. He never had any symptoms, only a family tragedy.
Fawcett had actually been helping to run the Virginia Department of Health’s Military Circle Mall mass vaccination site when his sister died of stage 4 pancreatic cancer in November at age 62. She was diagnosed in late September.
“She was my younger sister. She was actually the youngest one,” Fawcett said.
In January when Fawcett went for his yearly physical, he shared the news with his primary care doctor.
“‘You know, my sister passed from pancreatic stage 4 cancer. What’s the chances I could go ahead and get tested?'” Fawcett said recalling the conversation.
He said later in the day he received the test.
“Within three or four days [the doctor] called me and said ‘we have a problem,” Fawcett said.
Fawcett said his doctors credit his early detection with the overall success of his case.
An estimated 62,210 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States in 2022, according to the American Cancer Society. 80% will die from it.
If caught early, the five-year relative survival rate for a person with a case of localized pancreatic cancer — meaning there is no sign that the cancer has spread outside of the pancreas — is 42%. For stage four, it is closer to 3%.
“I was very lucky that I found this in the very early stages,” Fawcett said. “I feel wonderful, I feel great.”
He thanks his medical team, which includes Virginia Oncology Associates, as well as his wife for helping him fight.
“They are absolutely incredible,” Fawcett said.
However he said he is most indebted to his sister. He said without her, he never would have asked for a test.
Early pancreatic cancers often do not cause any signs or symptoms, according to the ACS. Their website states that “by the time they do cause symptoms, they have often grown very large or already spread outside the pancreas.”
“My sister saved my life,” Fawcett said. “Absolutely, absolutely.”
He wanted to share his story in hope others will get tested when their family has a documented history of the disease.
“If you think you have a problem, don’t be afraid to ask for them to do something,” Fawcett said. “Then listen to the professionals … there is hope in all this, if you find out you have something. Don’t give up.”