Nothing about beer, food, baseball, whiskey, or the PLCB here. I'd like to talk to you about pancreatic cancer, for two reasons.
First, this is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in America, and has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. This year, an estimated 42,470 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 76% of them will die within one year of the diagnosis. Yet pancreatic cancer research receives less than 2% of the National Cancer Institute's budget. It's not a hidden disease. Patrick Swayze, Justice Ruth Ginsburg, Steve Jobs, Randy "The Last Lecture" Pausch all had/have pancreatic cancer; chances are sadly quite good that you know someone who did.
And that's my second reason. Next Thursday, November 12, will mark one year since my dad told me he had pancreatic cancer. As he said at the time, when he handed me the green folder with his diagnostic report in it, "There's no easy way to say this."
As I learned more about pancreatic cancer and its bleak prognosis over the next few weeks, "no easy way" loomed large in my mind. Our calendar seemed suddenly, cruelly short. We gained hope when we learned his tumor was small, more when chemotherapy and radiation -- including a clinical trial of a new regimen that my father undertook, painful and wearying though it was -- shrank it to the point of being operable. Our hopes were dashed when the surgeons found that the cancer had already metastasized, as pancreatic cancer often does. It is an evil, spiteful bastard of a cancer, and if I could reach into my father's body and tear it out by the roots and stomp on it, I would.
But...subsequent chemotherapy has been moderately successful; it has significantly slowed the advance of the disease (the main tumor is actually smaller). My father is in good health, considering that he's 80 years old and undergoing chemotherapy, and he's still doing yardwork and baking biscuits for the dogs. He wants to see Thomas graduate from high school this spring, and I believe he'll make it.
That's why I'm taking this opportunity to talk to you. I know it's not fun to read. But if any of you see this, and want to help, click on the banner up above. One of the most important things you can do is to write your Congressional Representative about HR 745, the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act, which will direct and enable the Department of Health and Human Services to increase funding for pancreatic cancer research. And if you have your own causes -- something I thoroughly understand, and endorse! -- and decide to take a pass, no problem. I just wanted to do something for my dad.
Thanks for listening. You really are a great bunch of readers, and I appreciate it.