Purple – Not Just a Color, but a Symbol of Hope
According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer death right here in the United States. And, if that's not scary enough, it's estimated that pancreatic cancer will be the second cause of cancer deaths in the United States by 2020. The American Cancer Society reports that an estimated 73% of people with pancreatic cancer will die because of it in just the first year of diagnosis.
November is National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month and Thursday, November 16th is World Pancreatic Cancer Day, a day very dear to my heart. On World Pancreatic Cancer Day, people around the world are asked to wear something purple to bring to light this disease.
On June 18, 2012, I lost a man who meant the world to me. Leo Valliere was a truly amazing man. He was intelligent, humble, and brave. Leo walked the walk but didn't talk the talk because there wasn't a need to fill people's ears with lip service. Leo served his country proudly in the “Big Red Division” in the United States Army for over 10 years as an Army platoon and company commander. After his time in the Army, Leo continued his service through four terms in the Vermont Legislature.
We found out that Leo was fighting pancreatic cancer in the fall of 2011, and in February of 2012 I took a week off from work and spent that week with Leo in Vermont. We chatted and napped. Laughed and cried. I think we both knew that it would be one of the last times we’d have together and so we soaked up every minute of our time. By June 18th, my Leo was gone.
In 2014, I learned my friend Terri Mitchell of Greene who is a vibrant, loving and incredible single mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Leo was in his 70's. Terri is much younger. This is screaming proof that pancreatic cancer doesn't discriminate- it attacks who it wants when it wants.
According to the Cancer Centers of America, symptoms of pancreatic cancer sometimes don't show until the disease is advanced. When the symptoms do appear, they tend to include: upper abdominal pain that may radiate to the back, yellowing of skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice), loss of appetite, weight loss, depression, and blood clots
There are also some risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer, which includes smoking, being very overweight and having a family history of pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis.
If you or someone you love has any of these risk factors or symptoms, please don't wait to talk to a doctor. The longer the disease lives inside of you, the smaller your chances of survival. When Leo was first sick, he was misdiagnosed and we can't help but wonder if his outcome would have been different if caught sooner. If you so much as suspect that you might have pancreatic cancer, please be proactive and don't settle on just any diagnosis. Go with your gut. It could save your life.
Also, my sweet friend Terri has been given just a few months left to live and she's wanting to use that time to make special memories with her two kids. A GoFundMe has been created to help Terri create memories before she's called home. If you would like to help, you can donate here.