As the NHS turns 70 this week, two Cumbrian cancer survivors say thanks to the service that saved their lives.

Linda Wyatt was living a normal life, completely unaware that inside her body something was amiss.

It wasn't until she was struck down by a sudden bout of diarrhoea, in September 2015, that she called her doctor. Within weeks she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Looking back, Linda, now 64, says it was lucky she did get ill that day. The consultant has since told her that, had she come to him even a few weeks later, it may not have been treatable.

Linda explained what happened when she first took ill. "I couldn't get to the surgery, because of the diarrhoea, so I rang the doctor for a telephone consultation. Within five minutes the head of the surgery rang me back and asked more about my symptoms. I told him, and there was clearly something not right because he sent a doctor round.

"They thought it was an ulcer so I was sent straight to the Cumberland Infirmary for an emergency endoscopy."

Doctors said there was an ulcer, but it didn't look right and they wanted it investigated further. She had more tests in the coming weeks, including a CT scan at the West Cumberland Hospital, then was called back to the Carlisle hospital on October 16 to see a specialist.

Linda said it was then they told her it was pancreatic cancer.

"It was stage three, so it was quite far advanced. They then had to identify whether it was operable. Thankfully it was," she said.

Linda had what is known as Whipple's surgery.

"It's one of the biggest operations you can have. Bigger than heart surgery. They removed as much of my pancreas as necessary, along with some of my bowel and colon. It was basically a re-plumbing job, your digestive system is rerouted," she explained.

"It went well, but the recovery was grim, I won't lie. You've got to learn how to eat again, and teach your stomach to find its way around the new plumbing. I was in hospital for eight weeks."

She had the operation, which lasted over five hours, on Christmas Eve 2015, at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle. She said the timing worked in her favour as it meant her youngest daughter, who lives in Australia, could come back to support her.

Linda, of Maryport, later started a six-month course of chemotherapy at Whitehaven hospital's Henderson Suite.

"In terms of side effects, I didn't have any hair loss. It's funny, that was the first thing that you think about. It did thin a bit but luckily I've got quite thick hair," she said.

However there were some longer term effects, particularly severe anaemia, which left her needing several blood transfusions. At one point she was having one a week.

From the point of diagnosis, Linda said she had to face up to the fact that the treatment might not be a success. She updated her will and even planned her own funeral, just in case.

"You sort of switch off and think you are doing it for someone else," she said.

The good news is that Linda was recently given the all clear, and will now have regular follow ups to ensure the cancer hasn't come back.

"The consultant has told me there's no further sign of the cancer and, touch wood, the last time I was in hospital was January

"I do feel very lucky. The consultant at the Freeman said that if I'd come to him even a few weeks later it could have been a very different conversation we were having," she said.

"The cancer, it might come back. We know that. Nobody can stop that, but I'm still here."

Linda and husband John moved to Cumbria from Essex several years ago, looking for a new life near to the Lake District. They also have a boat in Maryport harbour.

She wants to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer - which claimed the lives of film star Patrick Swayze and Apple founder Steve Jobs - and its symptoms to help improve early diagnosis.

"At the time I wasn't aware of any symptoms. After diagnosis I went into work to tie up some loose ends before the operation and found boxes of Rennie in my desk. Then I realised I had some in the car, and more in the bathroom at home. I'd been having a lot of indigestion but not really noticing. I'd just been taking them without thinking.

"If I hadn't had the ulcer, which caused the diarrhoea, then I probably wouldn't be here now," she said.

Linda retired early, due to ill health, but previously worked as an NVQ assessor at the Lakes College, near Workington.

She has two grown up daughters - Lisa in Hong Kong, who has three young children, and Claire in Australia.

Linda is today paying tribute to the NHS, for saving her life.

"The Freeman were marvelous. Everywhere I've been it's been the same - Carlisle, Whitehaven, Maryport Hospital, where I had my blood transfusions, and the surgery in Maryport. Even the woman who took that first call. I couldn't find a fault with any of them. I always felt safe and knew I'd be well looked after," she said.

"We've had a good laugh at times too. You are in a grim situation, but you have to see the funny side.

"I feel very strongly about the NHS. I was born six years after it was formed, in an NHS hospital, with a dislocated hip - so I needed the health service right from day one.

"I'm more than grateful for what they have done for me. I'm not saying that nothing went wrong, but if it did it was usually due to a shortage of staff and nurses being under pressure. That's my biggest bugbear. They should bring back the bursary and make it as easy as possible for nurses to train. Without them the NHS wouldn't be there."

She also thanked Pancreatic Cancer Action for their support.

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:

Jaundiced yellow skin or eyes and/or very itchy skin.

Upper abdominal discomfort, radiating around the back.

Mid-back pain that's eased by leaning forward.

Pale and smelly poos that don’t flush easily.

Significant weight loss when not trying.

Indigestion that isn't responding to medication.

Others include depression, new diabetes, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite and pain when eating.