Celebrating Powerful Black Voices In The Pancreatic Cancer Community

The stories of our patients, survivors, caregivers, and fundraisers are the backbone of the Project Purple community. We believe that showcasing the experiences of our community members not only helps spread awareness for this disease. It also provides hope and support to those who are currently battling, surviving, or have lost loved ones to pancreatic cancer. 

During Black History Month, we have delved into the statistical disparities faced by Black pancreatic cancer patients and how Black patients can ensure they receive the best possible care.

Though it’s important to spread awareness about these disparities, it is integral to celebrate the stories of the Black pancreatic cancer community. In this article, we will share the narratives of some incredible people who showcase amazing perseverance, strength, and compassion.

Holding Onto Hope: Angela McDowell Baines

Family and faith have always been important to Angela McDowell Baines from Memphis, TN. But when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2020, they became a lifeline.

Early in her journey, Angela often struggled with self-blame– until her Whipple surgeon connected her with a fellow survivor who acted as a mentor and reminded her: “This illness is not about you directly. There’s nothing you did wrong.” That acceptance and perspective proved to be a crucial part of Angela’s journey, along with finding a surgeon and oncologist she trusted to get her through her pancreatic cancer journey. 

Now, she focuses on positivity and counting her blessings. She believes that the best way through a pancreatic cancer battle is to focus on faith or any truly positive force in your life. She also encourages people to pay attention to the state of their body and mind, especially if they are feeling symptoms of pancreatic cancer. Whatever your religious beliefs, Angela’s story provides listeners with a message about the power of hope and self-reflection that applies to everyone, religious or not. 

If you would like to hear more about Angela and her pancreatic cancer journey you can watch the full episode on Youtube, or listen to it on SoundCloud and Spotify! Angela is also a business owner with an amazing presence on social media. If you are interested, please check out her Facebook and Instagram accounts! 

Going the Extra Mile: Jabari Aiken

At the age of twenty-two, Jabari Aiken was enjoying his life as a college athlete at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). However, his life would be turned upside down when his father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 

When Jarrett Aiken was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in 2021, Jabari dropped everything to support his father and family. During Jarrett’s battle, Aiken moved back home from college to care for his father and two young brothers. He took his father to his chemotherapy appointments, cooked and cleaned, and took his brothers to school, all while trying to continue life as a full-time college student and athlete. Sadly, Jarrett passed on March 11, 2021.

Now, almost three years later, Aiken is taking steps to celebrate his father’s life by getting into a new sport that he hopes will help him make a positive impact in the pancreatic cancer community. He will be running the 2024 New York City Half Marathon with Project Purple, his first-ever race, to help raise funds and spread awareness for this disease. 

If you would like to hear more about Jabari and his pancreatic cancer journey, please visit our blog to read his full story. 

Taking Control of Your Diagnosis: Crystal Morgan 

Crystal Morgan is a mother from New Jersey and a pancreatic cancer survivor. Though her initial diagnosis was about eight years ago, Crystal still does whatever she can to help spread awareness for this disease. 

After receiving her diagnosis in 2016, Crystal began a difficult pancreatic cancer journey. She endured several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, underwent the Whipple procedure, and eventually worked with a clinical trial on an immunotherapy treatment that would help her gain control of her diagnosis. 

Throughout the process of her pancreatic cancer journey, Crystal learned the importance of advocacy and taking control of her health. She has since continued to encourage patients to seek out clinical trials that not only help individuals but also the larger cancer community.

In the hopes of spreading awareness for pancreatic cancer, she has started using social media to talk about her diagnosis and her life moving forward. She believes that the best way to approach a pancreatic cancer diagnosis is with a can-do attitude, as much positivity as you can muster, and a little bit of humor. 

If you would like to hear more about Crystal and her pancreatic cancer journey, please listen to her podcast episode! If you are interested in following Crystal on Instagram, please visit her page:

Darkness Before the Dawn: Benita Johnson

Benita Johnson is a pancreatic cancer survivor. She began her pancreatic cancer journey in December of 2022 when she went to the hospital for an attack of pancreatitis. 

She was then diagnosed with pancreatic cancer soon after in January of 2023. Quickly Johnson took control of her help, seeking out treatment at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. She started chemotherapy treatments, undergoing the Whipple procedure that year in March. However, it wasn’t long before Johnson found herself back in the hospital with a serious sepsis infection. Throughout her entire treatment process, Johnson did her best to keep a positive attitude, relying on the support she received from the hospital to get her through. 

When Johnson began to struggle with the financial strain of her diagnosis, she turned to Project Purple for help through our Patient Financial Aid Program. However, she didn’t just find financial help at Project Purple, she discovered a community of patients and caregivers who were all battling through the same diagnosis she was.

Johnson rang the bell for her last treatment in December of 2023. She now looks forward to this new year and everything it has to offer. 

“We always think of a New Year as being the start of a new opportunity, we see promise, we see hope… for me, I see this new year as really a new start in my life,” said Johnson. “I feel like I’ve been given a second chance at life. I feel that I now have hope and appreciate each day… I live for today, and today is a gift.” 

If you would like to hear more about Benita and her pancreatic cancer journey, please visit our blog to read the full story.

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