World Pancreatic Cancer Day 2015

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In 2008 I had the privilege to work with a terrific human resources manager – an  empathetic sort – as human resources managers should be.  He was  leading a healthy life.  He ran in local road races, went skiing with his family, was lean and did not indulge in the many vises of western civilization.   My colleague embodies what Noel Coward cited as the secret of life – a sense of perspective and a great sense of humor.  In short, he was living a life that did not push a cancer risk profile as we would define that even today, 7 years later. So when Robert (not his real name) told us he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer we were dumbfounded.  How could this happen to Robert?

Our colleague went through whipple surgery and has done very well.  Only 20% of pancreatic patients are candidates for this procedure because pancreatic cancer often goes undetected until treatment options are narrowed.  Robert was well supported by his wife and family and was very mentally and emotionally disciplined throughout his recovery.  When he returned to work, he referred to himself, as “the New Robert”.

“New Robert” understood that he should not try to accomplish everything that he could do before cancer treatment and  that he needed to instantly observe  a insulin-dependent regimen and lifestyle as he was now diabetic. At the same time he had serious appreciation for the second chance that he felt he had been given.  He gained incremental confidence and we shared his pleasure in his accelerating recovery and zest for life.

In these seven years we have had major advances in genetics and clinical trials and so those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer have even greater hope than Robert, who was very fortunate in that very unfortunate way.  I no longer work with Robert but we are Facebook friends.  I get a special thrill when he posts anniversary photos with his wife, or announces the birth of a grandchild and was most especially touched when he put up the photo of himself and his clan on the ski slopes last winter. For anyone else, those would be wonderful but not unexpected moments.  For Robert, they are very special indeed.

Robert – This World Pancreatic Pancreatic Cancer Day post is dedicated to you.

Written by: Susan Dicosola, MS, CMPE – Executive Director

Pancreatic Cancer Facts:

  • Just 4% of patients survive – is has the worst survival rate of all 22 common cancers
  • Pancreatic cancer is the fifth biggest cancer killer – 24 people die each day
  • It receives just 1% of overall cancer research funding
  • Pancreatic cancer affects men and women equally
  • For those diagnosed in time for surgery their chance of survival increases tenfold

Five-year survival is only four per cent. This figure has not improved significantly in over forty years

*Facts from Pancreatic Cancer Action

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