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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pancreatic Cancer: Know It, Fight It, End It

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. One of the main awareness events that happens in November throughout the country are PurpleStride walks/5Ks to raise funds for the Pancreatic Action Network

Last year we went to Savannah for the PurpleStride walk.

That was 4 months after my dad passed away. He had been attending the walks in Orlando and we didn't get a chance to go with him, so I wanted to honor his memory at the Savannah walk.

It was hard. Harder than I thought it would be. While I'm glad we went in his memory there is a small part of me that thinks it was too soon.

At the last one my dad attended in Orlando he told me spoke in front of the crowd as one of the survivors.

It was hard last year knowing he was no longer a survivor. Knowing he wouldn't be going to any more PurpleStride walks and speaking to the crowd.

I've been flip-flopping over whether I wanted to make the trip to Savannah this year to do the walk again (Savannah is the closest one to us). A part of me wanted to go to continue honoring his memory.

But a part of me didn't. I admit to being somewhat bitter. I didn't want to go to an event that would be a constant reminder that my dad is no longer here. I didn't want to go to an event and raise funds for treatment and a cure that is too late for my dad. Yes, just a little bit bitter.

I am absolutely not saying that it isn't important to keep raising funds for pancreatic cancer research, treatment, and cures for the people who are currently fighting this disease, and for the people who are yet to be diagnosed. It is important. The 5 year survival rate for this type of cancer is just 6%. (My dad fought it for 3 years). It's the only major cancer with a 5 year survival rate in the single digits and has remained that way for 40 years.

There are no early detection methods and the symptoms that do appear could be attributed to other medical conditions (my dad was first diagnosed with pancreatitis). More than half of the diagnoses are made in the latter stages. Surgery offers the best chance, but only about 15% of cases are caught early enough for this surgery...and even with surgery this cancer recurs in approximately 80% of patients.

So yes, more research is desperately needed. Only about 2% of the National Cancer Institute's budget is allocated to pancreatic cancer, the 4th leading cause of cancer deaths.

I'm not denying that there isn't a need in the pancreatic cancer community for events like PurpleStride to raise funds and awareness ... there is ... I'm just saying that I'm also bitter and still mourning for my dad and that I know my participating won't help my father. Sometimes that is still hard for me to come to grips with.

I didn't know if I could put my emotions aside and do the walk this year. But the decision ended up being made for me. The Partners in Policymaking class that I'm involved in meets the 3rd weekend of every month and the walk in Savannah is on the same weekend I need to be in Columbia for class.

I won't be at the walk this year, but I can still donate, raise awareness, and always, always honor and remember my dad.

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Stephanie said...

I don't see this as bitter. I see this as a person still processing the death of her beloved father. It had to be SO hard to do that walk after he passed; I think you're including strong and brave.

krlr said...

I think Stephanie has it exactly right. Anyone would need some space and time before jumping back into the fray. Sending love...

Stolnheart said...

I walked yesterday in the Purple Stride Orlando in memory of my husband who just passed a month ago. It was incredibly hard to see the survivors and listen to them tell their stories! Believe me, I can empathize with your feelings! Although I was happy that these survivors had fought and beat this cancer, I was overcome with sadness that my husband had also fought...valiantly...and lost after only a year.
I promise to carry on for those who are not able to do it themselves for as long as I am able. This is the "pay it forward" philosophy that ruled my husbands life. This is his legacy!