Families fight pancreatic cancer

Local News

Born from personal experience, members of the Pancreatic Cancer Association of Western New York are encouraging families to join their fight against the deadly disease.

Mary Ellen Smith, the Executive Director of PCAWNY, and Michael Crumb, the Honorary Walk Chair for this year’s PCA walk, discussed the disease and the local effort to increase awareness and research Monday during News 8 at Noon.

“Our focus is on creating awareness for pancreatic cancer,” said Smith, who lost her mother to the disease in 2009. “It’s way under funded and not really heard about until you have a celebrity die from it. Our group formed in 2009 from 15 or so of us who all had a relationship to the disease. We either had someone fighting it or lost a loved one, and we realized the statistics were so dire and hadn’t changed in 40 years that we needed to do something. So, we got together and we decided that we needed to focus on creating awareness in the community, educating people about it, and trying to provide some patient support and help families coping through this diagnosis.”

Smith noted that just eight percent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive beyond five years, but that percentage is up from six percent just a few years ago. It remains the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States and there are no early detection measures at this time.

Crumb’s life changed nearly five years ago. “I began to experience some digestive and intestinal issues that my doctor and I worked through in sort of a progressive manner, but after the holidays I really was beginning to experience pain,” he recalled. “A CT scan was conducted and we found that there was a tumor on my pancreas. Long story short, I was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in January of 2013.”

Crumb has fought the disease with a positive approach. “I may be one of the luckiest people you know because I am approaching becoming a five year survivor. I recently retired as Superintendent of the Spencerport Schools and when I retired I said, I wanted to go and try to help organizations like the Pancreatic Cancer Association in raising awareness because I believe with more research, and of course optimism and hope, we can find a better tomorrow for people who are stricken with this terrible disease.”

This year’s walk will be held at the RIT Gordon Field House from Noon to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 18. “So we have this annual walk every year,” explained Smith. “It’s been eight years now, and it’s really evolved to a huge family fun day because fighting pancreatic cancer, or any disease, is done with the family. So, we wanted to make sure that people could come out, have a fun afternoon, all uplifting and hopeful and do something good at the same time, and all of the dollars go to support local research at Wilmot Cancer Institute. But we have kids activities. We have food. We have entertainment. We have some surprises this year. We have a rock and roll theme, so we’re rocking purple! So, you can go to our Facebook page and see what that’s all about and just have a really good, safe, fun afternoon fighting a serious disease.”

Smith is hoping for the biggest turnout yet at this year’s walk. To register and join the fight against pancreatic cancer, click here.

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