Since today is World Pancreatic Cancer Awareness day, I thought I’d write about why I stride. Stride of course refers to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s annual 5k called Purple Stride. This Sunday, as we’ve done since 2015, Team Deb Force Five will be off to the races at the Broward-Palm Beach Purple Stride. While it will be my first as part of the event team, it will also be our second Purple Stride without Debbie, which brings me to why I stride.
I remember the day clearly. I had travelled with work to Orlando to present for the first time as part of our Military Roadshow. It was a pretty big deal and I was super excited. We were driving up as a group and heading back that evening. The presentation went swimmingly, so I spent my afternoon getting caught up on work. And then my husband called, hysterical.. I was convinced something had happened to one of our kiddos. When he finally calmed down, he told me the devastating news that Debbie had been diagnosed with stage iv cancer. Instantly, my knees went week and I started to slide down the wall as I too started to cry. At that point, the origin of the cancer was unknown, but the prognosis was dire.
At the time of her diagnosis Debbie was 40 years old. She wasn’t a smoker, she ate exceedingly healthy and was an avid runner. She didn’t fit the profile for a pancreatic cancer patient, but I think that’s the message. According to a a recent study, pancreatic cancer will be the 2nd deadliest cancer by 2020. Lung cancer is projected to remain the deadliest cancer. While other cancers have seen a decrease in mortality rates, pancreatic cancer has not. Researchers pointed to a combination of factors as to why mortality rates for pancreatic cancer have not declined. Risk factors including an aging population, the relative growth of high-risk minority populations (African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews) and the underfunding of pancreatic cancer research.
Debbie was committed to finding a cure and research for better patient outcomes. She was an avid supporter of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and the work they do to drive pancreatic cancer research. Unfortunately, this can’t be done without money. Pancreatic cancer patients and their families, like Debbie and her family, deserve better outcomes. They deserve a survival rate well over 9%.
We lost Debbie almost two years ago, but some days it feels like it was yesterday while others it feels like it’s been years. Even still Goalielocks asks why they couldn’t do more for her. I stride because I’m committed to ensuring that pancreatic cancer patients and their families have better outcomes. I’m committed to helping drive research forward. This disease has stolen so much from so many. It certainly has from me.
You can support PanCan and Team Deb Force Five in Debbie’s honor: http://support.pancan.org/site/TR/PurpleStride/PurpleStride?team_id=14831&pg=team&fr_id=1573