Stories of Inspiration: Cancer Survivor’s Day

June 4th, 2017 is ‘Cancer Survivor’s Day’.  While the rate of survival is increasing for most cancers, the 5-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer remains at an abysmally low 8%.  Even though pancreatic cancer continues to be a deadly diagnosis for most who have it, some people do survive this illness. This week, as Cancer Survivor’s Day approaches, we ask you to join Project Purple in celebrating the pancreatic cancer survivors among us!

Pancreatic Cancer Survivor Larry Nicolet

Larry Nicolet learned he had pancreatic cancer in 2011. He had a Whipple surgery but then found out his cancer had returned in 2012. Following his recurrence, the remainder of Larry’s pancreas was removed. He now uses an insulin pump, which he refers to as his ‘outside pancreas’. Larry adapted to his insulin pump well, but then in May, 2013, Larry had a third recurrence. To this day he continues to defy the odds. He maintains a positive attitude and keeps his ‘bucket list’ full. Larry plans trips and events which always give him something to look forward to. He plays golf and enjoys spending time with his family and visiting his grandchildren. For Larry, focusing on the future has helped him move beyond his cancer diagnosis and enjoy every moment of his life.  

Pancreatic cancer survivor
Larry Nicolet enjoying some golf

Pancreatic Cancer Survivor Julie Schroeder

Julie Schroeder is a wife and mom who learned she had pancreatic cancer in 2012. She is currently part of a clinical trial. When asked how her pancreatic cancer diagnosis has changed her life, Julie replies, “This one is hard. I think about it sometimes and wonder how my life would’ve been different if cancer wasn’t a part of it. Would I have been a better mom? Wife? More involved in things? Busier? But then I think that maybe all of this has just made me more human in ways that not having had cancer would’ve skipped over.”

pancreatic cancer survivor
Julie and Paul Schroeder

Julie continues, “There’s more pain, but a better appreciation of the things I would’ve otherwise taken for granted. There’s plenty of complaining, but only about the things worth complaining about. I have more empathy for people who suffer, though, ironically, less patience for suffering myself.”

“My kids are more magical, and I’ve paid more attention to mundane moments with them than I likely would have otherwise. And, although I would’ve been able to do more for my husband if I hadn’t gotten sick, I don’t think I could’ve ever appreciated him more than I have over the last five years.”

Finally, she adds, “It has strengthened my relationship with God, and accept all of this craziness, even as I fight to live through it…and taught me that, without a doubt, if I forget to find the humor in all of this, I’m doomed.”

cancer survivor day
Julie Schroeder enjoying time on the beach

Pancreatic Cancer Survivor Tara Petta

Tara was originally diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September, 2014. She underwent a surgical resection of the pancreas and received chemotherapy. Following treatment, Tara’s doctor declared her ‘cancer free’. While she battled her cancer, she felt it was extremely important for her to keep her life and the lives of her four children as normal as possible. 

Tara says her cancer diagnosis helped her tame her Type A personality a bit. She tries to appreciate each day in a way she was not able to before her cancer. She focuses on the present instead of always living in the future. Tara has also developed an appreciation for what she has instead of focusing on what her life may be lacking. 

Pancreatic cancer survivor
Pancreatic cancer survivor Tara Petta

Tara wants people to know that while the statistics are frightening, some people continue to survive and even thrive after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. “It is important for people to know you can survive it. When I heard the diagnosis, I was planning my demise. However, when you get a cancer diagnosis, it is not necessarily the end. I was always so fearful of getting cancer because I assumed it was a death sentence. I want people to know there is hope.”


Look for more survivor stories and celebrations later this week.  Join us in celebrating those who have defied the odds against pancreatic cancer. Support those who are currently fighting pancreatic cancer by making a donation to Project Purple today! 

Click HERE to make a donation to fund research into a cure and to support those who are currently fighting to become survivors. 

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