This Blog is in honor of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month and dedicated to my Uncle Hugh Sheridan, gone much too soon.
It was a purple ribbon. Just a purple ribbon. But I put it religiously on every coat I wore, taking care to make sure the ribbon sat straight on the right lapel of my coat. For over a year and a half it maintained its place of prominence.
I lost it this past January, to the streets of a beautiful but strikingly cold Berlin. I didn’t notice until I got back to the hotel that night. I wanted to go back and retrace my steps, underneath the shadow of the Reichstag, down the enchanting Unter den Linden and up the Wilhelmstrasse, with its stark buildings of the German Government Ministries. It was too late though. It was gone. I swallowed the sobs that threatened to bubble up in my throat.
It wasn’t just any purple ribbon. I had received it a few years before, at a fundraiser for my Uncle, who was suffering from pancreatic cancer. I wore it then in support of his battle. When he died, I wore it in memory of him.
November is pancreatic cancer awareness month. In honor of my Uncle Hugh and the countless others who have suffered, are suffering or will suffer with this painful cancer, my blog today is dedicated to providing information and bringing awareness to this cancer, that truly deserves more attention.
Pancreatic cancer has the sad distinction of having one of the highest mortality rate of all cancers.
According to the American Cancer Society, Pancreatic cancer has a 1-year survival rate of 20% and a 5-year survival rate of 5%. It’s the 3rd leading cause of cancer-related deaths (surpassing Breast cancer) and is only expected to increase.
Let me repeat that. 80% of those diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer don’t survive a year, 95% of them don’t survive 5. Those are sad numbers, traumatic numbers. Numbers that shouldn’t be that high.
We raise awareness for breast cancer on license plates, on t-shirts and on the windows of houses. NFL and MLB players wear pink gloves in support of breast cancer. Police officers wear pink lined patches. I hope you’ll forgive me when I say I sometimes get envious, what made society elevate one cancer as being worthier of attention than another? Isn’t all cancer bad? I’ve struggled with these feelings. I had seen my Uncle in a hospital bed, all bones, his strawberry blonde hair nothing but a memory. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a terminal cancer patient, especially one that you love, someone of your own blood, but of the range of emotions you feel, heartbreaking is only the tip of the iceberg. You’ll leave the room and won’t be able to stop the tears, won’t manage to make eye contact when the RN in the elevator sends you a sympathetic smile. And it stays with you. Forever. I can close my eyes and still see every moment, every detail.
I share this because there should be more awareness about pancreatic cancer. There aren’t a lot of happy endings, it’s painful and its ugly. I share this because 5% isn’t an acceptable survival rate.
The slogan of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is ‘Wage Hope.’ Wage hope because hope is sometimes all we have. Hope in clinical trials, hope in a miracle, hope for just a few more months, hope for a cure.
53,670 Americans will be diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer this year. 43,0920 will die. There are amazing doctors, advocates and medical professionals who raise money, run clinical trials and studies to help cure pancreatic cancer. There needs to be more though, they need help, help so that one-day Pancreatic cancer isn’t a death sentence.
My grandmother lost her husband to cancer when he was only in his early 50s. Some thirty odd years later, on a sunny September day, she followed the casket of her youngest child down the church aisle, singing Amazing Grace so clearly that I knew my Uncle had to hear it. So, Wage Hope. Fight for a cure. Because moments like these shouldn’t have to happen. Because a mother shouldn’t have to bury her children, no matter what their age.
So, this is dedicated to my Uncle Hugh, one of the 95% of pancreatic cancer patients who don’t make it 5 years. The youngest of 5 children, a husband and father, a chef by trade, who insisted on making his family Christmas Dinner because deep down everyone knew it was probably his last. I carried your memory with me all the way to Berlin and left a bit of you there when I lost that purple ribbon. You are not forgotten. You will never be forgotten, and I will continue to Wage Hope in your memory.
*Banner is from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (linked above) The slogan ‘Wage Hope’ is sole property of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and used only in this blog to bring attention to Pancreatic Cancer.
 “Pancreatic Cancer Survival Rates.” American Cancer Society. March 14, 2016. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival-rates.html. Accessed September 28, 2017
 “Pancreatic Cancer Facts” Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. http://pancreatic.org/pancreatic-cancer/pancreatic-cancer-facts/ Accessed September 28, 2017.
 “Key Statistics.” American Cancer Society. March 14, 2016. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/about/key-statistics.html. Accessed September 28, 2017