Editor’s note: Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month kicked off a few weeks early this year and continues through November. Our focus is “Demand Better. For Patients. For Survival.” Each week, we’ll bring you conversations with survivors, families, volunteers, researchers, advocates and others fighting the world’s toughest cancer. We’re asking them why they Demand Better, and how they’re doing it. Today we hear from Matt Wilson, a six-year pancreatic cancer survivor. He is the volunteer Affiliate Chair for the Delaware Affiliate of PanCAN and is co-chair of the organization’s National Volunteer Advisory Council. He tells us more in a recent video – scroll to the end of the article to view it.
Matt, please tell us why you Demand Better.
This November, I’ll be a six-year pancreatic cancer survivor. This wasn’t because of an early detection test or some type of medication or even a revolutionary treatment. It was because I went to the emergency room for a kidney stone. This is unacceptable for patients, for caregivers, for family, friends and all who are impacted by a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. I Demand Better because it is unacceptable for survival to be predominately based on luck or chance.
For whom do you Demand Better?
For the 91 percent. For people who are fighting the battle to hear that they are in remission or cancer-free. For caregivers who lie awake at night wondering what else they can do. Just today, I received a call from a woman who read my story and reached out because her husband just found out he has pancreatic cancer and he is about the age I was when I was diagnosed. She didn’t know where to turn. For several minutes I listened as she sobbed. People should know where to turn and know they have options. I Demand Better for her and her husband.
What three words come to mind when you picture a world in which there is an early detection test for pancreatic cancer?
Opportunity. Game-changer. Hope.
What are you personally doing to Demand Better in the fight against the world’s toughest cancer?
I urge my representatives in Congress to support increased pancreatic cancer funding by sending action alert emails, participating in Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day and making calls. I work with my affiliate to lead efforts throughout Delaware to help raise funds and awareness. I partner with researchers like Jonathan Brody (a PanCAN grantee) at Thomas Jefferson University as a patient advocate for a research grant that will help continue the important work in determining lifesaving practices. I speak to patients, survivors, doctors and researchers at Thomas Jefferson to share my story and inspire them to join or continue in the fight against pancreatic cancer.
What does Demand Better mean to you?
Demand Better means that not enough is being done and everyone needs to increase their efforts. Volunteers, donors, business partners, government officials and researchers can all do their part to push forward with efforts but also think about new and innovative ways to move the needle.
Why should people be aware of pancreatic cancer risk factors?
I had symptoms of pancreatic cancer but it took a kidney stone and five different doctors to diagnose it. I did not know the symptoms then, or I would have considered pancreatic cancer (I did not even know what the pancreas did until I was diagnosed). Being informed and aware of pancreatic cancer and the symptoms helps people get a diagnosis earlier and increases the chance of survival. Until we have early detection options, this is the best approach. So it is vital that we get the word out!
Join us in fighting the world’s toughest cancer. Visit pancan.org/demandbetter to learn more about how you can Demand Better during Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and beyond.