T h e S T R E A M :
IN IT TOGETHER:
WORLD PANCREATIC CANCER DAY 2016
Diana knew something wasn’t right when a pain in her ribcage wouldn’t go away. Rather than chalking it up to acid reflux, she called her doctor.
The diagnosis was devastating to the 43-year-old newlywed and pharmaceutical representative.
“It’s the kind of cancer that rarely has a life expectancy greater than six months to a year,” she says. “I cried for a minute and then said to myself, ‘Nope. I can fight this. I will fight this.”
Diana explains that because there aren’t any diagnostic tools, most people don’t find out they have pancreatic cancer until it’s too late. Diana is the exception. Because she acted quickly on the unusual pain, doctors were able to perform an intense, but lifesaving surgery. Diana breathed a huge sigh of relief upon seeing the cancer hadn’t spread.
“I went back to work six weeks after surgery. I wanted to get back to normal,” she says, despite having to start brutal chemotherapy and radiation. “By making myself think I was back to normal, I sort of forgot what I was going through.”
Seven years later, Diana is now cancer-free and still focusing only on the positive. Since she doesn’t have much of a pancreas and what is left doesn’t work, she takes more than 20 pills a day to help her digest her food.
“I’ve learned to live with these additional issues and still feel grateful I’m here,” she says. “I’m able to find such joy in my life each and every day.”
Because pancreatic cancer is among the deadliest and the diagnosis is so devastating, funding is low and resources are minimal. People don’t want to talk about this disease.
Cheryl Maliszewski, owner of our Chicago Boutique, and Diana’s best friend, is changing this paradigm. She is raising the awareness pancreatic cancer so desperately needs. And she’s doing it with style.
On Thursday, November 17, World Pancreatic Cancer Day, Cheryl plans to donate 10% of all sales to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, PANCAN, a nationwide network of people working together to create hope for those affected by pancreatic cancer.
Diana is one of them. PANCAN matches recently-diagnosed patients to survivors. “To date, I’ve spoken with at least 20 patients. In most cases, I’ve been the one person who knows exactly what they are going through,” she explains.
PANCAN sponsors the PurpleStride Event, which Diana participated in shortly after her lifesaving surgery in 2010.
“Organizers asked for survivors to gather in the front. Out of thousands there, nine people stood up,” Diana says. “But, each year, that number is growing.”
DID YOU KNOW
- On World Pancreatic Cancer Day, an estimated 985 people across the globe will die from pancreatic cancer.
- Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all major cancers. Just 2-10 percent of those diagnosed survive five years.
- Pancreatic cancer is the 7th most common cause of cancer-related death in men and women across the world.
- It is the 4th leading cause of cancer-death in men and women combined in more developed countries.
- Pancreatic cancer is the 12th most common cancer in men and women around the world.
- It is estimated that by 2020, this figure will increase to 418,000 new cases diagnosed globally.
- Fifty-five percent of pancreatic cancer cases were diagnosed in more developed countries in 2012. The highest incidence of pancreatic cancer was in North America and Europe; the lowest incidence was in Africa and Asia.
5 THINGS EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW
1. The pancreas lies behind the stomach and in front of the spine. It works to help the body use and store energy from food by producing hormones to control blood sugar levels and digestive enzymes to break down food.
2. Pancreatic cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the pancreas grow out of control, forming a mass of tissue called a tumor.
3. Early diagnosis is key: patients who are diagnosed in time for surgery have a much higher likelihood of surviving five years.
4. Symptoms – including abdominal or back pain, weight loss, jaundice, loss of appetite, nausea, changes in stool, and diabetes – are often subtle and are generally initially attributed to other less serious and more common conditions.
5. The cause of the majority of pancreatic cancer cases is unknown. For the few known risk factors (e.g., familial history, smoking, obesity, age), more research is needed to understand their direct relationship to the disease.
To learn more about Pancreatic Cancer, visit the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.