Posted by: Kathy | February 6, 2010

Ignorance can be bliss, but it’s not the answer

I am a medical writer/editor and have been working in this field for more than 17 years. I’ve learned a lot. I don’t have a medical degree or a science degree. I’ve had to do a lot of research to be able to do my job properly. Through this research I’ve learned a lot about many different diseases including cancer.

When it comes to dealing with a deadly disease like pancreatic cancer, ignorance can be bliss. Cancer is now often times treatable, curable, when caught early, with people surviving many years after diagnosis. But the statistics associated with pancreatic cancer are dismal. I knew how grim these statistics were before my mom was diagnosed. So when my dad told me of my mom’s diagnosis, it was like a slap in the face. I was devastated because I knew immediately that my mom’s chances of survival were slim.

I’m not a pessimist, and I did hold on to hope that my mom could beat this. But that hope was always tainted with the reality that is pancreatic cancer – frightening low rates of survival and high rates of diagnosis at a stage too late for effective treatment to be a real possibility. What would it have been like to have real hope of long-term survival? What would it have been like to completely believe that my mom would become cancer-free and live a long life like her parents did? To have pure hope for a month, a week, or even just a day would have been uplifting. Ignorance of the horrible statistics associated with pancreatic cancer would have been bliss. But ignorance is not the answer. Ignorance of the true devastation caused by pancreatic cancer has been occurring for way too long.

People currently fighting pancreatic cancer and those who have lost loved ones to this disease are crying out for help. When the oncologist told my mom she could stop treatment if she wanted to, I felt like shaking the doctor, screaming “why are you giving up”, begging him to please save my mom. But I didn’t say anything because I knew nothing more could be done. Pancreatic cancer needs real answers. And these answers will only be found if the deadliness of this disease is truly realized and funding is made available to find treatments that give people life and not just a few months of unsuccessful therapy that precedes an agonizing death.

Pancreatic cancer came into my life as an unexpected storm and struck with a vengeance. Pancreatic cancer took my mom from me, leaving a hole in my life and my heart. It took my kids’ grandmother away, robbing them of her unconditional love. And my dad lost his soul mate. We are still recovering from this “storm” and I wish it could have been prevented, stopped in its path, or that we had some warning. But my mom had no real risk factors for this disease, and the treatment she received couldn’t stop pancreatic cancer from taking her life. I am still haunted at times by what pancreatic cancer did to my mom and I am still dealing with the fact that she is truly gone.

More needs to be done to raise awareness of this horrible disease and there are dedicated people and groups trying to do this. I’m going to start adding pages to my site highlighting people and groups that are fighting against pancreatic cancer and working to increase awareness and improve the statistics associated with this horrible disease. These groups include Road 2 A Cure, Lustgarten Foundation, and Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

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