Why do I harangue my friends year after year?
I have been at this for a very long time and pancreatic cancer is a personal mission for me. I found my way to the Hirshberg Foundation in 1998, while searching for information after my sister-in-law was diagnosed (my mother-in-law soon to follow), and they were a wonderful resource for us. Moreover, they existed for no greater purpose than to help in any way they could. That remains true today which is why I am still here in lock-step with them 21 years later.
I have a friend named Walter who has been battling pancreatic cancer since 2015. Walter was stage 4 (end stage) when he was diagnosed in at the end of March 2015 and he was expected to live only a couple more months. It has been a rough ride for Walter, for sure, but he’s still with us 4-1/2 years later and he rides his bike regularly, occasionally riding from El Segundo down to the Redondo Beach Pier to have a beer at Naja’s. Walter is an inspiration but for every Walter, there are dozens we have lost: people like Connie and Chris Ferris, my sister-in-law and mother-in-law; people like our team namesakes, Heather and Etta (“TEN”); and people like Rachel Barron and Lisa Knight. We were skiing in Mammoth with Lisa less than a year and a half ago, she was diagnosed two months later and she left us two months ago. Pancreatic cancer is one tragedy after another and it rips families apart. A dozen members of our team have lost family members to pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer has risen dramatically in the years I have been here because far too little is being done about it. New cases are up 95.8% and deaths are up 58% in the last 21 years and the American Cancer Society projects that 56,770 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and 45,750 will die from it this year. That’s 155 new cases and 125 pancreatic cancer deaths in the US every day which is more lives than breast cancer, liver cancer, kidney cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, melanoma, lymphoma or leukemia will claim.
The Hirshberg Foundation has been funding pancreatic cancer researchers directly in the form of seed grants since 2005 and we have funded 87 such seed grants to date but we are still forced to turn away three applicants for every one we fund and that’s what keeps me up at night. Each grant applicant we have to turn away is a potential breakthrough that becomes a lost opportunity so please join me at the LA Cancer Challenge and please support the cause generously.
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