On September 17, Project Purple hosted its first-ever Survivor Summit at the Goodwin Hotel in Hartford, CT. The event brought together the Project Purple team and pancreatic cancer survivors from all over the country to share their stories and learn from each other, as well as leading experts about ways in which survivors can continue to remain happy and healthy, and how Project Purple can better serve this community. By bringing survivors together, Project Purple empowered these former patients to continue to fight for a world without pancreatic cancer.
“There is strength in numbers, and it’s really amazing to see,” said Dino Verrelli, founder and CEO of Project Purple. “Also, there is so much to learn from survivors: how life works now with the reality of being a survivor, and how survivors still deal with a lot of issues post-initial treatment, from physical issues to the mental aspect of beating cancer, especially pancreatic cancer.”
Life During & After Treatment
This one-day event started off with breakfast, which gave the survivors plenty of time to get to know each other before jumping into roundtable discussions on various topics related to survivorship. The intimate setting allowed survivors to have a uniquely personal experience and tailor the conversations to topics they wanted to know more about, as well as share their experiences with pancreatic cancer in a more relaxed setting.
“The whole reason we started the Survivor’s Summit is that there isn’t a lot else going on out there like this,” said Samuel DaCosta, marketing manager for Project Purple. “Our goal was to one, give the survivors an experience, give them an opportunity to learn from some of the leading researchers… but then we also wanted to learn from survivors and give them an opportunity to share their stories with each other, and share their support with each other.”
Secor, Eric R., ND, PhD, LAc of Hartford Hospital spoke about integrated medicine and the important role it can play in a patient’s recovery after going through a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. The information presented by Secor allowed survivors to gain insight into alternative recovery paths that can be used to expedite or enhance their health after treatments.
Stefanie Sacks, MS, CNS, CDN, author of What The Fork Are You Eating, provided nutritional advice to the survivors, offering up information about how the foods patients and survivors eat can directly affect their treatments and recovery. She offered personalized advice to survivors about what the best alternatives were to some of their favorite guilty-pleasure foods, or foods they were trying to cut out of their diets.
Speaker Eric Secor R., ND, PhD, LAc, Chief of Integrated Medicine at Hartford Hospital.
Speaker Stefanie Sacks, MS, CNS, CDN, author of What The Fork Are You Eating as she is introduced to survivors by Project Purple Founder & CEO Dino Verrelli
After lunch, survivors were given the opportunity to share their stories with the group, discussing topics related to treatments, tumor location, and post-Whipple attacks. These conversations allowed the survivors to not only share their experiences with others but also learn and connect with people in this small community who have shared similar experiences.
“One of the main things we learned was about how survivors want to be treated,” said DaCosta. “We learned that survivors, especially because there aren’t that many groups out there specifically for pancreatic cancer survivorship that meet in person, they loved the opportunity to share their stories with other people who have been through the same thing as them… that comradery was really big for them, we learned.”
Finally, our Project Purple team closed the day by sharing with the group several resources we had to offer, such as stories of fellow survivors, guides and research we have done on survivorship, and ways in which they can contribute to the Project Purple cause.
Darlene Plavchak shows off her custom shoes with the words “Love, Hope, Cure, Pancreatic Cancer”. A beautiful design with a powerful message.
Survivors are a highly important facet of the pancreatic cancer community. However, they often struggle to find resources due to their small number. The focus of this event was to bring resources to them, giving this intimate group a chance to not only celebrate their survivorship, but also learn how to better recover from their battle and adjust to their new lifestyle as pancreatic cancer survivors.
“It was so unique. I’ve never really seen something like that happen before in person,” said DaCosta. “Everybody seemed to have something to bring to the table; it was beautiful. It really was incredibly powerful.”
This event has not only allowed the survivors to form connections with each other but also given our Project Purple team a better idea of how to serve this section of the pancreatic cancer community.
“The speaking portions were excellent but the roundtable discussions were also super productive. Not only were the survivors who came out for the weekend able to learn from the guest speakers, but our Project Purple staff was able to learn a lot from the survivors. They had a lot of great ideas, insights, and questions,” said DaCosta. “They gave us a ton of topics we want to dive into, and made us aware of other experiences unique to survivors that haven’t really been explored.”
The Project Purple team is excited to take survivors’ feedback and work with them to create new resources for this community.
“I feel there are so many things we could do to improve on this subject,” said Verrelli, “I hope in the next twelve months we can take steps to support survivors, possibly from a variety of new areas.”
Project Purple is so thankful to have shared this experience with the survivors, and is excited to continue this event for years to come.