Purple was my mother, Rose Schneider’s, favorite color.
She was 68 when she passed from pancreatic cancer, just six months after her doctor told her to get her affairs in order.
After her death, our lives were shattered and I was heartbroken. But I was determined to not let her death be in vain.
A week before my mother had been scheduled for an attempted Whipple procedure to remove part of her pancreas, I had taken her to the local mall for glamour shots. The plan was that, after surgery when she felt unattractive or sad, I could show her the photos and remind her of how beautiful she was.
Of course she wore her favorite color – a beautiful purple – for these photos. As long as I can remember, purple had always had a presence in our lives…when I was a little girl, my room was lavender and white.
After my mother died, I went online to find the “organization for pancreatic cancer.” There’s a group for every disease, I had figured. I was shocked to find that one did not exist. There were no resources anywhere for the disease, only a “pancreas cancer chat room” on the Johns Hopkins Medicine website.
One of my favorite quotes is by Margaret Mead, who said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
I had already met a small group of likeminded new friends through the Hopkins chat room – all committed to doing something…anything…to fight back against this beast of a disease that had torn apart our lives.
One thing was abundantly clear to me: We needed to start a movement. And I was ready to take action.
I remember one of the first things I wanted to do was to order ribbon pins so we could raise awareness, but what color?
I took the question to my new chat room friends and asked them what they thought of purple. To me, the color was regal and strong.
Not long after, I went on to found the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network with the goal of it becoming a beacon of hope for those affected by pancreatic cancer – a place where people could use their anger and grief to make a world of difference. A place to join hands, raise our voices and put our boundless passion to work to change the course of this disease.
My mother grew up the youngest of six children raised by a single mother, living on the wrong side of the tracks and wearing hand-me-downs and shoes with holes in the soles.
She never felt like her life mattered.
I hope that she somehow knows that today the entire world associates purple with pancreatic cancer.
In my heart, purple represents Rose Schneider and many, many others with whom I have connected because of our shared pancreatic cancer bond.
I’ll forever see purple as I continue to honor my mother’s memory and work to carry out her legacy.
Pamela Acosta Marquardt
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network