The Benefit of Being Your Own Advocate
In 2017, I received the devastating news I had pancreatic cancer—the same disease that killed a close friend nearly a decade before my own life-threatening diagnosis. My liver enzymes were elevated with no indication anything was wrong; however, a CT scan revealed pancreatic lesions. I was shocked, as I was otherwise healthy and had no genetic predisposition to the disease. I also felt afraid and devastated, but more than anything, I was determined to beat this disease. With the support and love of my family and friends, in August 2017 I underwent a Whipple procedure at Johns Hopkins followed by chemotherapy, hoping I would get back to the full life I had prior to my diagnosis. I’m incredibly blessed and grateful to now call myself a survivor, with my latest scan in August 2021 continuing to show no evidence of disease.
My experience with the Lustgarten Foundation has been one of the most meaningful and rewarding experiences I’ve had, first as someone who lost a loved one to pancreatic cancer and then as a pancreatic cancer survivor myself. My involvement began in 2010, when I participated in the first Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk in South New Jersey in memory of my friend who passed away. I loved the energy and the opportunity to gather with others who have been impacted by this horrible disease and who can empathize with each other. After relocating from New Jersey to South Florida and realizing the Foundation did not have a walk in the area, I volunteered to start one in 2018 during my recovery. Together with Neal Aronin, whose sister passed away from pancreatic cancer, we have founded and grown the Boca Raton Walk into a successful fundraising event for Lustgarten and a day of hope and inspiration for the pancreatic cancer community in South Florida. I want to give back to other patients, survivors and their family members who can benefit from a community walk event, just as I have.
Watching the Boca Raton Walk flourish over the past four years has been so gratifying! Since it started in 2018, the event has raised more than $400,000 to support Lustgarten’s extensive research program. I believe funding research is essential for conducting clinical trials, finding new treatments and discovering effective techniques and tests for early detection. I encourage survivors, patients and caregivers to join with Lustgarten and bring hope to others by participating in a Walk for Research and fundraising to provide continued, urgently needed research support.
Going through a pancreatic cancer diagnosis changed my life. I am so fortunate to be a survivor and have become a dedicated advocate to help other survivors, patients and caregivers cope with diagnosis and treatment. The most important piece of advice I give other patients who are navigating this diagnosis is to never give up hope. As a survivor, I know more time with loved ones and more hope are everything and have such an impact on recovery and mental well-being.
To those of you who donate to the Lustgarten Foundation consistently—no matter the amount—I can’t thank you enough. You never know when that dollar will be the contribution that funds the next research breakthrough!