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Woman focuses on charity after losing husband to pancreatic cancer

A Toronto woman who lost her husband to pancreatic cancer earlier this month has become an accidental spokesperson for the disease — all while grieving and raising an 18-month-old.

Joel Urnom — featured in a Feb. 27 story on 680News.com — died on May 2, less than four months after his Stage 4 diagnosis and six months after passing a thorough physical for a life-insurance application. He was 41.

Though the last few weeks have of course been tough, Brandi Parson said she’s more focused than ever on spreading the message of early detection so others might outlive the deadly cancer her husband couldn’t.

“Had they found [the tumour] when they could have removed it from his pancreas, he’d still be with me,” she said.

What many don’t know is the pancreas is so small, it’s only when the tumour has spread to other organs that it causes pain. By then it’s too late for surgery and the best chance of survival.

Despite the odds, the couple did everything possible to save Urnom. They started with two rounds of chemotherapy, which did nothing to stop the cancer’s exponential growth.

They then turned exclusively to natural treatments, including intravenous Vitamin C and heat therapy, and those helped for a while.

“Things were somewhat normal,” Parson said, and then added, “Everything sort of rapidly went downhill from there.

On the Saturday before Easter, Urnom started looking jaundiced. His fever spiked at 38.7 C and his feet started to swell.

He spent almost a week in hospital and, after a night at home, Parson and Urnom’s sister Tria realized the only option was palliative care. On April 28, the staff at Princess Margaret Hospital told them the cancer had spread to his bones and he had to be sedated.

He died four days later.

Now, aside from her push for awareness of pancreatic cancer, Parson is adjusting to life alone with her toddler Viva.

“When you don’t ever plan to be a single mom, it’s something that you have to rehearse slowly,” she said.

“I have almost nine years with Joel where we did some pretty amazing things — went on some great trips and [to] great events. You know, we had an amazing life together. It’s Viva — that she won’t know him makes it really hard.”

When Urnom was first diagnosed, Parson would put Viva to bed and say, “Talk to the angels. Ask them to make your daddy better.”

She now tells Viva, “Say goodnight to daddy. He’s with the angels now.”

To donate to Pancreatic Cancer Canada in Urnom’s memory, click here.

Parson is a nominee for Walmart’s Mom of the Year contest. To leave a message on her page, click here.