October 23, 2015

Meryl Fishler

PurpleLight raises awareness of pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer is currently the fourth-leading cause of cancer related deaths in the country and is expected to become the second by 2020.  The Phoenix affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, a nonprofitpatient-based advocacy organization, is trying to raise awareness about one of the nation’s deadliest cancers with its upcoming PurpleLight on Oct. 25 in Phoenix. The group’s goal is to double the pancreatic cancer survival rate by 2020.

PurpleLight is a gathering of survivors, family and friends who have been affected by pancreatic cancer. At the October 25 ceremony, which begins at 6:30 p.m at Wesley Bolin Plaza, 1700 W. Washington St,. Phoenix, participants will have the ability to form a community of hope as they share stories about their connection and the commitment to fighting pancreatic cancer. Individuals gain both encouragement and comfort by illuminating purple glow sticks as they hear their loved ones’ names read aloud.  At the end, once all the names are read and the glow sticks are all light up, it gives people hope and shows them they are not alone, said Elizabeth Canuas, the Phoenix affiliate chair for the Network.

Events like this that spread awareness mean a lot to Canuas, who lost both of her parents to the disease. “Until my parents got pancreatic cancer, I never really thought about it,” she said.

After the passing of her father, Canuas wanted to get more involved and reached out to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Nationally, the network offers a comprehensive range of programs and services, creating hope and support for the pancreatic cancer community through research, patient support, community outreach and advocacy for a cure.

The Network funds a robust research program using a peer-reviewed system administered through the American Association for Cancer Research.  Additionally, the program works to fund innovative research, increase the number of researchers directly working on this disease, foster collaboration across disciplines and institutions, and to expedite scientific progress that benefits patients.  The organization also provides an innovative approach to patient support through a program called Patient and Liaison Services, which provides the latest research and treatment options to patients and their families.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers and has a five-year survival rate of just 7 percent. An estimated 72 percent of patients will die in the first year of diagnosis. “But never take no for an answer,” Canuas says.

If a doctor says there is nothing to do, it is not true, she said.  “I really want people to be aware of clinical trials and the new research out there, and for them not to have to go through what I have been through,” she added.

PurpleLight is leading into November, which is pancreatic cancer awareness month. The month is about bringing awareness to the disease and getting information out to the public.  In April, the Phoenix Affiliate will host PurpleStride, the signature event of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Each year, in communities across the country, tens of thousands of people participate in more than 56 PurpleStride events, including PurpleStride Phoenix.