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Cancer isn't always the color pink

Cancer isn't always the color pink

Most people realize that a pink ribbon dangling from a fixture in October is placed there as a sign of support for breast cancer awareness. But did you know that November is Pancreatic Cancer awareness month?

Purple colored bows are displayed in recognition for awareness for this type of cancer. I didn't realize this, until I was diagnosed having the disease in October 2016.

I was admitted into Lady of the Sea Hospital with unknown high fever and low potassium. Certain blood tests and an abdominal scan were ordered with a possible diverticulitis diagnosis. Instead I was diagnosed having a pancreatic tumor. I was directed, by my primary care physician, to Ochsner Medical Center, where a biopsy determined that it was Stage 1 Neuroendocrine Pancreatic Cancer.

The specialists I saw explained to me how very blessed I was to have been diagnosed early on. The type I had is rare to find, because of its location.

The pancreas is about 6 inches long and sits across the back of the abdomen, behind the stomach and in front of the spine. Most people who are diagnosed having this type of cancer are usually in their final stages with no treatment options to be offered. I was fortunate to not even need chemotherapy.

Since then, I have had surgery to remove the cancer, along with the tail end of my pancreas and spleen.

We never found out why I had the high fever, which brought me to the ER to begin with. I took that as a sign from God that He needed me to do something special. So I decided to bring forth awareness and insight about this rare type of cancer. It may help save someone else’s life.

Pancreatic cancer is when abnormal cells within the pancreas grow out of control and form a tumor.

The pancreas is responsible for two main functions: digestion and blood sugar regulation. These cancer types are classified as exocrine tumors, which account for 95 percent of tumors. The tumor begins in the exocrine cells that make pancreatic enzymes, which aid in the digestion process.

I was diagnosed having (NET) Neuroendocrine cancerous tumor of the pancreas. They account for less than 5% of all pancreatic tumor cancers. They are rare and have a tendency to grow slow and may be benign or malignant.

Symptoms may include abdominal bloating, abdominal pain, back pain, fatigue, weight loss, nausea, diarrhea, jaundice, diabetes and digestive problems. The risk factors are smoking, diabetes, obesity, race, age, diet and a family history of or other cancer types. You can reduce your risks of having cancer by not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight through lifestyle changes.

Pancreatic Cancer has the lowest survival rate among all cancer types, but it doesn't get the publicity or recognition that it deserves. In every country, pancreatic cancer is the only major cancer with just a single digit survival rate from 2 to 9 percent.

Each day 1000 people worldwide will be diagnosed having pancreatic cancer and a whopping 985 of those people will die from it. While there are more people diagnosed having breast cancer, there are more who die from having pancreatic cancer. It is estimated that by the year 2020, 418,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer will be diagnosed.

I don't know everything about cancer, but I learned a lot about having the strength to go through the process of the fight to survive. Whether you have been diagnosed having stage 1 or stage 4 cancer, every phase has its difficulties.

I am cancer free today, because of being diagnosed early on by the medical professionals at Lady of the Sea Hospital and my strong faith in God to heal me. I received top-notch healthcare from all those involved in my care plan.

For the month of November, please show your support for those who suffer with pancreatic cancer and raise awareness by attaching a purple bow on your mailbox, lamp post or even wear it on your shirt lapel. Someone may ask you about that purple bow you have shown. That will start up the conversation about awareness. You can also make a difference in helping with the fight by donating to the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation.