As pancreatic cancer awareness month, aka November, comes to a close, we at Project Purple thank everyone who has helped bring attention and awareness to this deadly disease. It has been an amazing month of seeing a sea of purple in the news, on social media, at races, at CrossFit and pretty much everywhere for the past 30 days. Thank you all so much for sharing your stories this month!
On a more personal note, I hit four years as a pancreatic adenocarcinoma survivor this month. Prior to my diagnosis, I had never met anyone with pancreatic cancer. While I was at chemotherapy one day, I met my first fellow PC fighter, Rich C. He had stage IV cancer and was very ill both from his cancer and from the side effects of his treatment.
Rich and I were at different places in our journey, but it was so reaffirming to meet one another. We exchanged phone numbers and stayed in touch over the next couple of months. I finished my chemotherapy treatments in June, 2014. I had a chance of long-term survival, but sadly, Rich did not. He passed away in August, 2014, a loss that hit me very hard. I held out hope for him, even though I knew the odds were overwhelmingly stacked against him. Still, learning of his passing was a punch to the gut.
Finishing Treatment, Finding Project Purple
After I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I sought out other patients, as a source of comfort and shared knowledge. I knew what the statistics were, but I did not yet fully understand how much loss I would experiencd as part of the pancreatic cancer world.
In the fall of 2014, a few months after finishing my treatments, I started writing for Project Purple. For three years now, I have interviewed runners, patients, and scientists who have a connection to pancreatic cancer. I am incredibly grateful to every single one of you who has shared your experiences, your joys and your sorrows, with me, and with the public.
Sharing Your Stories of Love and Loss
When I ‘met’ many of you, your had already lost your loved one to pancreatic cancer. Every single one of you told me how amazing, incredible, loving, selfless your loved one was. In some cases, I have interviewed runners whose loved ones were still battling pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately, many of those loved ones are now no longer with us. Over time, I came to believe that pancreatic cancer only strikes good people, because all of the stories you have shared have been about people who were special and so deeply loved.
The Fighters, the Patients, the Warriors of Pancreatic Cancer
Sometimes I have interviewed people who were actively fighting pancreatic cancer. There have been some miracles out there, and I am so thankful for the survivors out there. However, more often than not, there have been recurrences, and frequently losses of life.
As I look back through old blog posts or through my list of Facebook friends, I am struck by how many people I have met through Project Purple, and my connection to pancreatic cancer, who have passed away in the past few years. In fact, today, three years ago, I became friends on Facebook with Gina Cyza and Rick Carone, both of whom I interviewed for Project Purple. Both were wonderful vibrant, young, healthy people who were diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer seemingly out of the blue. Both had children and families and huge communities of people who loved them dearly. Neither Gina nor Rick is with us today.
Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month
By some cosmic coincidence, my cancer anniversary happens to fall during the month of November. Every year, I spend the month talking and educating people about pancreatic cancer, reflecting on how it has changed me and has changed my family. Equally important, I spend time reflecting on how pancreatic cancer has changed the lives of so many people I have come to know since my diagnosis.
Every single day of these past four years of my survival, I have wondered why I survived pancreatic cancer when so many wonderful people have not. Time and again, in my mind, all I can come up with is that I was just incredibly lucky. But luck is not a treatment plan or a survival strategy. Luck is not an inexpensive form of early detection. Luck is not good enough. Single-digit survival statistics are also not good enough. Every person who has felt the impact of pancreatic cancer knows things have to change. It is literally a matter of life or death.
Keep Up the Fight…November and Beyond
While the number of pancreatic cancer cases continues to climb, we are starting to see the survival rate creeping up ever so slightly. We are making a difference. YOU are making a difference. Thank you for sharing your stories, for telling the world your ‘why’ and for spreading awareness. The world is beginning to take note and pay attention and we need to keep the momentum going. Pancreatic cancer awareness month is coming to end, but the fight continues on. Keep making your voices heard…for those we have lost, for those who are fighting now, and for those who have not yet been diagnosed.
To share your ‘Why’ click HERE
Make a donation to Project Purple’s 2018 Patient Financial Aid fund HERE . All donations will go to helping patients who are battling pancreatic cancer.