A few years ago, the routine of municipal government was the main conversation between Maureen Shul and Cathy Noon. As mayors of new cities who were variously involved in their respective incorporation efforts, the two women had seemingly much to talk about. Shul, the founding mayor of Castle Pines, and Noon, the second mayor of Centennial and the first woman to hold the post, had the shared distinction of running the two newest municipalities in the Denver metro region.
But it was the plight of pancreatic cancer that truly brought the two mayors together.
In 2010, Shul tragically—and suddenly—lost both her mother and brother to the disease within months of each other, prompting her to found Wings of Hope for Pancreatic Cancer Research.
“Having two immediate family members diagnosed with pancreatic cancer brings home how prevalent this particular cancer has become,” she said. “The horrific reality of this cancer is compounded by friends who have been diagnosed and are undergoing treatment.”
Eight years later, Noon was diagnosed, herself, with the disease, prompting the two former mayors to join forces in ways they would not have imagined. Noon was recently one of several survival stories featured at An Evening of Hope, the main annual fundraiser for Wings of Hope.
“Raising awareness is vital to helping find early diagnosis and treatment options for those who have pancreatic cancer,” said Noon, a 19-month, stage-3 survivor. “Like me, most people don’t know they have pancreatic cancer until it is in advanced stages and face dismal survival rate statistics. More advocacy, research and successful treatment options must happen so pancreatic cancer isn’t considered a death sentence.”
On World Pancreatic Cancer Day, Thursday, Nov. 21, Shul, Noon and advocates from around the world will unite to spread the word on the common risks and symptoms of the often-deadly disease. The annual campaign is an initiative of the World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition, composed of more than 80 organizations from more than 30 countries on six continents, including Wings of Hope.
November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.
Pancreatic cancer—its research well behind that of other cancers—has the lowest survival rate, in large part because few people know the warning signs, and too often patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage when treatment options are few. Working to change that is Wings of Hope, which raises funds to support groundbreaking studies and trials at the University of Colorado Cancer Center.
“As the least funded cancer when it comes to research, the greatest hope in combating this relentless disease lies in funding research projects that will find early diagnostic methods, more effective treatments and ultimately a cure,” Shul said.
According to the American Cancer Society, about 56,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States in 2019, and approximately 45,000 will die from the disease. Less than seven percent of patients survive five years after diagnosis, giving pancreatic cancer one of the worst survival rates of all the common cancers.
Better progress starts with early detection. The common often vaguely described and misdiagnosed symptoms include mid-back pain, unexplained weight loss, jaundice and stomach pain. Evidence suggests smoking, excessive weight and chronic pancreatitis may increase the risk. Family history is also a factor.
Because there is no screening test—unlike many other cancers—anyone experiencing one or more persistent symptoms should ask their doctor about the disease. Patients diagnosed at an earlier stage, when surgery is an option, are more likely to live five years or longer.
“World Pancreatic Cancer Day provides the opportunity for all of us to unite globally to advocate for early-detection methods, more effective treatments and especially more funding for research,” Shul said. “It is only by raising awareness to the symptoms and risks that we increase the chance of survival and change the course of this relentless disease.”
For more information about World Pancreatic Cancer Day, visit worldpancreaticcancer
For more information on Wings of Hope, visit wings
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