Survivor Council

Home About the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Survivor Council

The Survivor Council is a group of volunteers created to ensure the survivors’ voice, experience and expertise are integrated into the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s programs and initiatives.


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Diane Borrison

Diane had her Whipple surgery on August 8, 2006. She was originally diagnosed with stage II pancreatic cancer. Concerned over her yellow-looking skin and eyes, she went to the doctor to find out what was wrong. Prior to that time, Diane considered herself to be very healthy. She’d always been physically active. She’d never smoked nor been overweight. There was no cancer in her family.

Her Whipple took place at a high-volume institution and was followed by six months of chemotherapy. For the next five years, she tracked her health closely with blood tests and scans. But there have been no signs of the disease. Diane doesn’t think she is “cured,” because she knows the monster can return. But for now, she is cancer-free.

Diane began volunteering with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) about a year after her diagnosis by helping with “Walk through the Vineyards” in Napa Valley before national PurpleStride events began.

From the start, she loved the enthusiasm of the volunteers and staff as well as their determination to make a difference. Diane has been a local Advocacy Chair for eight years and travels to Washington, D.C., every year for National Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day. She was proud and honored to receive Advocacy Coordinator of the Year at PanCAN’s national volunteer meeting in 2013.

Diane has also been actively involved with fundraising for PurpleStride Silicon Valley through obtaining sponsors and making connections with people who continue as larger donors for PanCAN.

Diane is a retired business woman. She served on the Leadership Council for the Silicon Valley American Cancer Society for many years.

She especially enjoys spending time with her friends and family, including seven grandchildren. She loves art, music and exploring new things and places. She has lost many friends to pancreatic cancer and volunteers in their memory, determined to raise awareness about the disease and the services provided by PanCAN’s Patient Central.

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Ralph Cheney

Ralph had an undiagnosed obstruction in his pancreas in 2004. After two bouts of pancreatitis and receiving a misdiagnosis, he went to a major pancreas center in New York City. There he had a distal pancreatectomy and splenectomy and was diagnosed with stage III poorly differentiated ductal carcinoma. Local doctors told him he had three months to live, but as of today, his scans have shown no evidence of disease.

Ralph has worked with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network since his diagnosis. He serves as a Survivor and Caregiver Network volunteer, a Community Advocate and a member on the Survivor Council. Ralph and his wife Mariann are the past recipients of the Randy Pausch Award and Community Representatives of the Year. Additionally, they received The Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract Public Service Award in Washington, D.C., in May 2015 for their work in the pancreatic cancer community.

Ralph is a former supervisor for Cardinal Health, a Vietnam combat veteran and a prostate cancer survivor. He is also a certified peer to peer mentor for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and suicide prevention.

Despite his illnesses and challenges, Ralph consistently delivers a message of hope to everyone he meets. An avid bass fisherman, he lives on Swinging Bridge Lake in New York with Mariann and their five Labradors: Ace, Caroline, Holly, Dina and Rosie.

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Dennis Cronin

Dennis Cronin was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2010. He and his wife, Kathy, are very active with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and its Pittsburgh Affiliate. Since 2011, they have championed a large team of family and friends (Faith Heals) for PurpleStride Pittsburgh.

Dennis is the Senior Vice President Treasury Services & Chief Risk Officer for the Highmark Health (Blue Cross/Blue Shield) group of companies and oversees the treasury functions. His employer has served as the presenting sponsor for PurpleStride Pittsburgh in previous years and other Highmark Health companies have also been sponsors at various levels.

Dennis lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and two children, Tyler and Nikki.

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Roberta Luna

Roberta learned the importance of helping others from her parents at a very young age. The value of kindness they instilled in her as a child has continued to guide her through all the stages of her life. She has always enjoyed helping others but never knew how important it would become.

Roberta’s journey with pancreatic cancer began in 1964 when she was only nine years old. That was the year she lost her grandmother to the disease. She was not old enough at the time to know anything about cancer, nor how it would continue to affect her life some 30 years later.

She never imagined the very same disease would take her father, her mother, her grandmother and her uncle. Nor could she have imagined that on April 1, 2002, she would get diagnosed with stage III pancreatic cancer with an inoperable tumor, due to vessel and artery involvement. It was unimaginable that she too would hear the words, “I’m sorry…It’s pancreatic cancer…Go home and put your house in order.”

Roberta began volunteering with Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) in 2008 after attending her first National Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day. Hearing the stories and feeling the pain of others who were also devastated by this horrific disease, she soon realized that very few of those in attendance were survivors. Most were there because they had lost someone they loved to pancreatic cancer. She felt an overwhelming desire to speak for those who were unable to speak.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

During her first Advocacy Day, Roberta knew she had found what she was meant to do. She had found her destiny. She began her relationship with PanCAN as a general volunteer with the Orange County Affiliate and soon jumped into the role of Media Representative.

A few years later, she became the Affiliate Chair and now looks forward to a new and challenging role that will help her reach out to more patients, survivors, their families and medical professionals. She is extremely proud to be part of the Survivor and Caregiver Network and a member of the inaugural Survivor Council!

Roberta loves spending time with her husband, two adult sons, three rescued cats and rescued Siberian Husky. She loves to cook, read James Patterson books and finds great comfort and peace in making one-of-a-kind rosaries. Her favorite “ah-ha” moments include completing her first half marathon, jumping numerous times from perfectly good airplanes, receiving the Randy Pausch Award in 2012 and seeing over 140 researchers present at the 2016 Community Outreach Leadership Training.

Roberta was a family law paralegal for over 25 years, but she finds what she is doing now so rewarding that volunteering has become her full-time job. Her family is very supportive and understanding of her deep commitment to be a voice for those with this disease, and to raise awareness for a cure.

As a survivor, Roberta strives to give hope to others so no other family must hear, “I’m sorry…it’s pancreatic cancer…go home and put your house in order.”

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Gil Marchman

In 1999, Gil Marchman had a procedure for an ulcer and learned that his pancreas had a spot. Doctors suggested he get a biopsy, and at that time, the only way to have this procedure done was by surgery. Gil had no pain, so he ignored the doctor’s advice until May 2000, when he became jaundiced. Then, he underwent another procedure that confirmed the spot on his pancreas to be cancer.

His doctor told him that he should have surgery immediately. Scared and ignorant, he wanted a second opinion. In August, he got a second opinion, which confirmed the original diagnosis.

On September 30, 2001, Gil had the Whipple procedure. The hospital released him 35 days later and told him to prepare for chemotherapy and radiation.

He was willing to take chemotherapy, but his doctor told him that he removed all the cancer, so Gil saw no need for radiation.

However, he started educating himself on pancreatic cancer and discovered that he was one of the lucky ones. Gil also learned about the many clinical trials in progress at the time. He got in touch with several and joined a trial in May 2002 at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Gil finished the trial 18 months later and appeared to be cancer-free, based on a blood test and scans.


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Scott Nelson

Scott Nelson was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2005. His treatment was in large part successful because of his participation in a clinical trial. He feels a responsibility to help others in their fight against this disease, since so many people helped him when he was fighting it.

Scott is member of the Pancreatic Cancer Action (PanCAN) Survivor and Caregiver Network. In that role, he speaks to newly diagnosed patients and their families, providing advice and hope. Scott is also a member of the PanCAN Survivor Council, providing input and advice on a variety of patient advocate and research advocate programs at PanCAN. He also served as the research advocate on the PanCAN RAN and RAN2 Grants Committee.

Scott works with Mayo Clinic as an original member of RAPPORT, a patient and caregiver research advocacy group supporting Mayo Clinic’s Pancreatic Cancer Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE).

Scott also serves as a research advocate at the University of Minnesota (UMN), providing a patient perspective to their pancreas cancer researchers. He also co-founded the Oncology Patient Council at the UMN.

When he’s not volunteering, Scott enjoys spending time with his family and discovering life’s adventures, both large and small.

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Cathy Schwandt

Cathy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February 2013. She had a great surgeon who looked at her scan and said, “I think you have a 95 percent chance of beating this.” That was all she needed to hear! Cathy underwent chemotherapy, radiation and, in August 2013, the Whipple surgery. She has had no evidence of disease ever since.

Cathy had never heard of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) until April 2013, when her friend told her that she had formed a team for a pancreatic cancer walk. Two days after her Whipple. Cathy’s husband and friends walked in PurpleStride Columbus and Skyped with her while she was in her hospital bed.

She went to her first affiliate meeting in December 2013. After attending a few meetings and connecting with another survivor in the group, Cathy went to National Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day and volunteered to become the Community Outreach Chair. She hasn’t looked back.

Cathy feels that she survived for a reason – to be a voice for this disease. In 1980, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was on the education committee of her local Susan G. Komen affiliate for many years. What she learned at Komen, she is putting to work at PanCAN. She wants to make purple the new pink, and this cause has become her passion. Her goal is to get other survivors involved to have their voices heard, believing it is their responsibility.

Cathy recently retired from the real estate industry. Not knowing what tomorrow may bring puts things in perspective for her. She believes we must do what we love and not put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

Cathy and her husband of almost 30 years plan on traveling over the next couple years, seeing this great country and trying to find a place to settle down for the next 20+ years where it is warm.

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Michael Weinstein

On November 26, 2005, Michael’s life changed abruptly when he went to the emergency room. Two days earlier, he had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family, made even more special as both of his daughters were home from college.

Like most people, Michael tends to overdo things during the holidays, so it didn’t seem so unusual to end up in the ER with diverticulosis. However, it became quite a shock when Michael learned that he also had a tumor on his pancreas.

When Michael was diagnosed, his doctor said that his tumor was inoperable because of the location and the impingement of a major vein. After getting treatment for one year with various radiation and chemotherapy treatments and visiting numerous cancer institutions, it was determined that he had been misdiagnosed as to the specific cell type.

Michael then had to begin additional chemotherapy treatments for the correct cell type. In October 2007, Michael went to Houston, Texas, and had a bypass of the vein as well as the required resection of the tumor and related Whipple surgery.

After 12 hours of surgery, he had a bad reaction to a blood transfusion, and his lungs filled with fluid. He was clamped, packed in towels, wrapped in Saran Wrap and sent to the intensive care unit for the night. After being stabilized, the surgery was completed the next day.
Michael was unconscious for eight days and had a heart attack during that period. Even after he finally woke up, it was not easy. He spent another 40 days in the hospital with various infections.

Finally, after a 50-day hospital visit, Michael was released. Another 10 days later, he was able to leave Texas and return to New Jersey.
He remained cancer-free until his scans in August 2012 showed some spots on his liver and pancreas. Both areas responded well to treatment, and again he was cancer-free. Michael is now being treated for his second recurrence.

Michael was introduced to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) by his wife, Nancy, who discovered it on the internet while researching the disease. He joined the New Jersey Affiliate (now the North Jersey Affiliate) in January 2008, just after he returned from having Whipple surgery in Texas.

He has been the Advocacy Chair since filling the role vacancy in August 2009. Michael has attended and been the State Leader for New Jersey for seven National Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Days. In 2011, he was honored to receive the Randy Pausch Award as well as the Advocacy Chair of the Year.

Michael has two grown daughters, Bethany and Marla, who along with his wife Nancy support his efforts with PanCAN by attending Advocacy Day and walking with him in the North Jersey and New York PurpleStride events. He lives in Millburn, New Jersey, and is a retired CPA who enjoys gardening, volunteering, and taking those afternoon naps.

 

In Memoriam

We honor Survivor Council members who have passed away, and celebrate their leadership, commitment and lasting legacy. We continue to Wage Hope in their memory and on behalf of everyone affected by pancreatic cancer.

Ways for Survivors to Get Involved

PurpleStride
Join the fight against pancreatic cancer at our inspirational walk/run events. Find an event near you to raise funds and awareness.

Patient Central
Receive free personalized, comprehensive information and resources to help you understand and fight this complex disease.

Survivor and Caregiver Network
Share information, ask questions and gain support and inspiration by talking to others who have had similar experiences.

Wage Hope With Us

Join us to double pancreatic cancer survival by 2020.





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