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Every Story Counts: Survivors Educate and Inspire Patients With Pancreatic Cancer

By Let's Win Team

October 26, 2023
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This is the fifth blog from Let’s Win Pancreatic Cancer. To learn about resources for newly-diagnosed pancreatic cancer patients, read their fourth blog here.

Pancreatic cancer remains one of the deadliest cancers of our time. In 2023, the survival rate for pancreatic cancer increased from 11% to 12%. While this increase may seem small, the percentage shift represents 641 more patients whose lives were saved, and, more importantly, 641 more survivors whose stories need to be told.

Let’s Win provides a forum for pancreatic cancer survivors to tell their stories. In doing so, they help other patients learn about treatment options, learn about different ways to manage their care, and imagine what life is like after treatment. For newly-diagnosed patients, finding someone else who has faced the new language of cancer, experienced the nuances of treatment, and tackled the uncomfortable side effects and symptoms, provides tremendous reassurance. Each survivor has important information to share, whether it is about symptoms, advocating for more tests when something does not feel right, finding a different treatment, or seeking emotional support. Survivor stories are the heart of Let’s Win’s mission—providing vital information and inspiring hope. Here are some we have compiled over the years.

Stories that Educate

Angella Dixon-Watson had just gotten a clean bill of health when everything changed. She developed terrible itching on the palms of her hands that got so bad, she couldn’t sleep. She was jaundiced. Her weight dropped so rapidly her colleagues didn’t recognize her. Angella went back to her primary care doctor, who recognized signs that pointed to pancreatic cancer. She now shares her story with others so they too can recognize the different symptoms.

Eric Borden and Jay Buth advocated for additional testing after their initial findings were inconclusive. Because they persisted, both men were able to receive the proper diagnosis, start treatment sooner, and survive the disease.

Cathleen Janosko’s doctors conducted genomic profiling of her tumor and found a rare gene fusion known as Neuregulin 1 (NRG1). When standard of care treatment stopped working, she spent hours researching online. She found an independent tumor board, which recommended a clinical trial that targeted her gene fusion. Two years later, her body has no measurable tumors or signs of metastatic disease.

Many patients are hesitant to acknowledge the emotional side of treatment. But Pablo Rodriguez is an advocate for psychological support. His psychologist provided him with tools that allowed him to navigate the most challenging moments of his treatment journey. Now, he aims to destigmatize mental health treatment for other patients.

Stories that Inspire

Many patients and their families seek hope in the dark night of a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Stories and videos from long-term survivors provide that inspiration to look to the future.

With a large tumor and a stage IV diagnosis, Donna Robinson was given 3 months to live. Her tumor was considered inoperable by many surgeons, but she consulted 1 more surgeon, who employed a unique approach. Her journey took a turn for the better from that day onward.

Cedric Robins, Sr.  had a large mass on his pancreas that blocked his bile duct. Undeterred by his diagnosis, he worked all through chemotherapy and radiation treatments, caring for his horses, riding tractors, and attending church. He endured a 12-hour Whipple procedure because he was determined to be there for his family and church community. Cedric’s inspiring message for other patients is simple: “Don’t give up just because they say it’s cancer.”

Help Us Write the Next Story

Survivor stories begin with your next pancreatic cancer patient. You can play a part in writing the next story to provide the information, inspiration, and hope your patients need to face their own journeys.

Encourage your pancreatic cancer survivors to share their stories with Let’s Win. The submission form is simple and takes only a few minutes to complete.

Together we can raise the survival rate by 1 more patient or even 1 more percentage point. Every success story is a victory for all of us.

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