This month is pancreatic cancer awareness month. How do I know this? It’s not because I have pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. It’s because the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PCAN) reached out to me once my story ran in the Las Cruces Sun-News. After deciding to write this post I started doing a little more research and found out that yesterday, November 10th, was Nueroendocrine Tumor awareness day (whatever that is). So what a better time to share this with my blog audience!
My diagnosis was such strange and uncomfortable time. Part of me wanted to know exactly what I was getting in to. Coming from a short stint in the healthcare field, I wanted to research and understand the ins and outs of this strange disease. I started researching it but it was overwhelming, and quite honestly, depressing. I was also undergoing terrible, awful chemo and couldn’t always make sense out of the simple things in my life. Wrapping my head around it was more than I could handle. So I decided to have blind faith. I decided that my healthcare team was indeed smarter about this topic than I and I would trust them (easier said than done – trust me). In my defense, I’m not burying my head in the sand and pretending it doesn’t exist. I know exactly what I have, but no one has a crystal ball. Not me, not my doctors. As Olivia Pope taught me, I will be a gladiator with this disease.
At one point, I read that I have a 15% chance of living over five years and I decided, “Screw it.” Well, actually, the word that came to mind started with F and has four letters. I’m not going to become an expert in this. This will not consume me. I will live life to its fullest and laugh more than I cry. You will not see me on the corner of Hoagland and Valley collecting quarters in a purple paint can or organizing fun runs. I don’t own a stitch of clothing with the cancer ribbon on it, nor will I have a purple ribbon tattooed on my ass.
Here are a few things that I learned about pancreatic cancer during my short conversation with the PCAN:
1) A recent study suggests pancreatic cancer will surpass breast and colorectal cancer to become the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S. around 2020. The top four cancer killers in the U.S. by 2030 will be lung, pancreas, liver, and colorectal. This is a change from the ranking today (lung, colorectal, breast, and pancreas).
2) There are many factors that have contributed to the lack of sufficient progress in the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer. Historically, the disease was understudied and underfunded. In an effort to double pancreatic cancer survival by 2020, the PCAN is intensifying efforts to heighten awareness, raise funds for comprehensive private research and advocate for dedicated federal research to advance early diagnostics, better treatments, and increase chances of survival.
3) Due to these efforts, The Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act was signed into law by President Obama in January 2013, which requires the National Cancer Institute to develop a scientific framework to conduct and support research for recalcitrant cancers, including pancreatic and lung.
The facts above came from PCAN. But these are my words:
Pancreatic cancer really, really sucks.
And that my friends, is about as blunt as I can get to raise awareness.
No picture this time. It might have been me with my middle finger, haha!