Community Outreach Leadership Training through Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCan) was held at the Marriott in Manhattan Beach, CA last week, August 7-10. As a gift to the hard work that all the non-paid, volunteers do through-out the year, this conference is an all-expense-paid opportunity for the core leaders of state affiliates. Each affiliate can have up to 8 core leaders….but I’m telling you, some affiliates work with less than 5 core leaders and still get a lot done!
I am the Volunteer Chair for the Nashville Affiliate. This is the first year that our affiliate has filled most of the core roles. The work of many is truly being done by just a few. We had 5 core leaders attend this year.
I went to COLT with no expectations. I have only been the VC for a few months and am just beginning to figure out what I’m suppose to be doing. I assumed the gathering would be emotional because everyone there was like me, having lost a loved to pancreatic cancer.
There were tender moments, but overall it was uplifting and inspiring. It was a celebration, not of what we’ve lost, but of our efforts to change the future. It was informational on basic “how-to’s” and what the scientists are doing, what government is doing, and what we are doing. Every part of it was motivational and I’m ready to make a difference in the statistics.
I saw the statistics a different way this weekend. I’m use to the 6% survival rate. But look at it a different way.
94% of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will die in less than 5 years after diagnose, most with-in the first 2 years.
That breaks my heart and that’s why I’m fighting for this cause.
I posted on Facebook this update after a full day of meetings:
I wish I had my computer with me so that I could truly share the thoughts and emotions I’m feeling during this time in CA with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, they are definitely an organization of action. I haven’t seen the ocean which is only 2 miles away or LA, only 30 minutes away. But I’ve seen a sea of purple and hundreds of super stars. I’m meeting some of the 6% that survive this disease. I’m meeting scientists fighting for a cure. I’m meeting people who can’t get over the loss of a loved one and are fighting so others don’t have to suffer like our loved ones did or like we continue to do because our mom, sister, brother, husband, wife…isn’t by our side anymore. There is sorrow in the in knowledge I’m gaining, but there is more hope. We are making a difference.
So let me tell you a little of my journey to COLT2014.
First is how God provided for the trip. Not only did PanCan provide for the expenses, but friends and family bought items that I had made to help with my personal expenses during the journey and another friend helped out with some on-the-ground worries that made my entire trip wonderful. Thank you so much. You know who you are!
It’s been a few years since I’ve been on a plane, so I was super excited that I got a window seat both ways AND the seat next to me was empty both ways. So I took lots of pictures.
My flight leaving Nashville was at 6:30am, getting me to CA around lunch time and I had the entire day to myself, no meetings, just sitting back and relaxing. I went for a short stroll to a shopping center, but came back and put my feet up.
Friday and Saturday were full days of learning and being motivated. Each speaker that I heard was awesome and made me want to join their team…oh wait, I’m already on their team!
Purple bling was everywhere!! Or Sparkle Spirit as the ladies like to call it. And I got with the program everyday and probably every day from now on. Just call me the Purple Lady.
I was doing really well, until the awards dinner. Everyone was dressed up and looked beautiful. The music was great, the food was great, and the program was great. And that’s when it got emotional for me. On the large screens at the front of the room, the names of our loved ones flashed across the screen. Seeing Mom’s name up there brought me to tears.
There are moments that just bring it to the heart of the matter. This one was mine. I’m so grateful for the ladies that just let me cry and then shared their stories with me and let me share mine.
Then there was Stu….a 9 year survivor. After talking with him and asking him how he is a 9 year survivor, I brought away from our conversation….AWARENESS! Stu recognized some symptoms and had a doctor that knew to dig deeper quicker. That made all the difference.
I think Dr. Amy Tang had the biggest eye-opening moment for me. She said that what we are doing in the research for pancreatic cancer will help all cancers, because this is one of the deadliest cancers. So any improvements here, helps everybody.
I looked down at a little bracelet I was wearing that had been Mom’s. She had worn it for years. Just a simple multicolored beaded bracelet with a silver ribbon. She said it was a generic cancer awareness bracelet, representing all the cancers. Because how can you truly pick one cancer to fight for. Every cancer has victims and every cancer needs awareness.
My family and my husband’s family has been affected by a long list of cancers. I could pick any of them to support and get behind fund-raising events. But it took me losing my Mom to get behind this one. The founder of Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Pamela Acosta Marquardt, said that she couldn’t get over losing her mother. The rest of her family did in their own way and went on with their normal lives….but she couldn’t. I can’t either.
I once asked God when I would stop remembering how Mom died and just remember how she lived. The answer has come.
And because I won’t, I fight for others so that they won’t have to have my memories, so that there are more “Stu” stories.
God lead me to study Ecclesiastes while at COLT2014. I started with chapter 1. It was perfect for what I was fixing to step into.
For with much wisdom is much sorrow; as knowledge increases, grief increases. (Ecc. 1:18 HCSB)
The knowledge I gained this weekend did increase my grief. But there is HOPE.
There are some scary statistic. But there is HOPE.
I believe that God is going to use the efforts of this organization and the people working with it to WAGE HOPE for anyone that is being touched by this terrible disease. That is why I won’t forget and I’ll continue to fight this battle, one that Mom could not fight for herself.
If you are interested in being a part of The Cross L Team for PurpleStride2015, May 30th. click here to sign-up for the 5K or simply donate. Anything you can do is greatly appreciated.
Upcoming events: PurpleLight2014 – November 2nd
Nashville Affiliate Meeting: October 15th, 6:30