By Vanessa Steil
When Joel Evans went to his endocrinologist in 2015 for what he thought would be a routine visit to monitor his diabetes, it turned into anything but. The findings were alarming—elevated blood work indicating he might be suffering from a serious illness. Joel was shocked. When the diagnosis was pancreatic cancer—a disease with a five-year survival rate in the single digits—he was devastated.
Fortunately, Joel’s cancer was detected early and he was able to undergo a Whipple procedure, a complex surgery that includes removing part of the pancreas, small intestine, the gallbladder and bile duct, followed by six months of chemotherapy.
Now, a six-year pancreatic cancer survivor, Joel knows how lucky he is to have beaten the odds to not only survive—but to thrive. His cancer diagnosis and experience as a patient led the former university business professor to carve out a new path as an advocate and author.
Since 2016, he has participated in the Lustgarten Foundation Long Island Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk at Jones Beach, raising money for pancreatic research through “Team Joel.” He also wrote a book, Surviving Cancer and Embracing Life, to offer support and encouragement to other pancreatic cancer patients and their families.
‘The book sheds light on my own journey with pancreatic cancer and some of the things that helped me cope throughout my diagnosis,” Joel said. In what he hopes will allow patients to feel less alone as they navigate their diagnosis, chapters in the book highlight Joel’s surgery and treatment, the value of community, the role of exercise, returning to work, choosing to be happy, and giving back.
While Joel credits early detection with saving his life, it also was the strength of his family and desire to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding that helped him persevere.
“I’m so grateful I can share my story and help organizations like the Lustgarten Foundation raise money for life-changing pancreatic cancer research, “ Joel said. “My experience highlights why early detection research is so critical.”
While writing his story was a cathartic experience, his main purpose is to bring attention to the disease, encourage other patients, and show that there is hope after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
During the month of March 2021, we are pleased to offer Joel’s story as a complimentary downloadable resource to those who make a donation to pancreatic cancer research.