Tuesday, June 3, 2014 —
For those in Stanly County that have been affected by pancreatic cancer, now is your chance to leave a mark.
Efforts are underway to organize a local team to participate in the Charlotte affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and its PurpleStride. With a motto of “Know It. Fight It. End It,” the organization focuses on raising awareness and promoting increased research for the deadly disease.
The surviving family of Danny L. Almond is spearheading the effort to form a team in Stanly. Almond died of pancreatic cancer in late 2009, at the age of 53.
Almond’s experience with the disease was typical and further illustrates why so many die of the disease.
“Danny started having pain in the stomach area,” his wife, Cindy Almond, said.
“When we went to the doctor they thought it might be his gall bladder or acid reflux.”
Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect. By the time doctors pinpoint the problem, the cancer is too far progressed and the prognosis grim.
That’s what happened to Danny.
While Danny complained of stomach pain, the symptoms can be more vague, prompting victims to ignore treatment.
Victims can also suffer back pain, jaundice, loss of appetite, nausea, and weight loss, as did Danny.“When we got the news, we were in shock,” Almond said.
“We decided to fight. We said ‘what can we do.’ We started looking on the Internet, which was not the best thing to do.”
It was then the harsh reality struck that pancreatic cancer is akin to a death sentence.
Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. Its survival rate has not significantly improved over the last 40 years.
“There is only a 6 percent survival rate,” Holly Patz, event coordinator for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, said.
“Our goal is to double that survival rate by 2020.”
Victims often die because there are no detection tools to diagnose the disease during the cancer’s early stages when surgical removal of the tumor is still possible. By the time the tumors are discovered, the cancer has typically spread to other organs like the liver.
“There are survivors. There’s not many. But, it’s about getting the research,” said Almond, talking about how the bleakness of the cancer impacts support.
The pancreas is a 6-inch long organ located behind the stomach in the back of the abdomen.
The pancreas contains exocrine and endocrine glands that create pancreatic juices, hormones, and insulin. Pancreatic juices, or enzymes, made by the exocrine glands are released into the intestines by way of a series of ducts in order to help digest fat, proteins, and carbohydrates.
Little has advanced about the cause or risk factors of pancreatic cancer. Smoking, excess weight, family history, and diabetes are cited as risk factors.
In terms of research funding, pancreatic cancer ranks well below other cancers.
Network organizers hope to change that with its annual event. In September, the group will hold its third annual PurpleStride 5K Run & Family-Friendly Walk in Charlotte as a way to promote awareness and raise money for additional research. After a modest beginning, the event continues to grow.
“Our first year we only had 640 participants, last year we had 1,100,” Patz said.
As many as 1,500 are expected to participate this year.
The Network’s Charlotte affiliation is one of only two in the state (Raleigh) to promote awareness for pancreatic cancer. Its volunteer driven to ensure donations go toward research.
Stanly County figures to be a player in its growth. An informational meeting will be held about forming a local team at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Sleep Inn in the meeting room.
For information, contact Amber Almond Reynolds at aareynolds@carolina. rr.com or (704) 986-0781.
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