Editor’s note: Xan Harwood-Karlik died of pancreatic cancer in November 2019. We are grateful he allowed his story to be shared.
In November 2014, 29-year-old Xan Harwood-Karlik of Portland, Ore., was diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer. He immediately started a rigorous treatment program involving aggressive chemotherapy, immunotherapy clinical trials, radiation, major surgery and then more chemotherapy.Initial results were extremely promising, but a year after diagnosis, his healthcare team confirmed a recurrence of the disease in his liver, reclassifying the diagnosis to stage 4.
Xan and his healthcare team needed to make some quick decisions about his next treatment. He was grateful to have participated in Know Your Tumor several months earlier because the service gave him the information he needed to immediately make this next treatment decision. The Know Your Tumor personalized medicine service provides eligible pancreatic cancer patients and their oncologists with information about the biology of their tumor and personalized treatment options, including appropriate clinical trials.
The best news: the treatment is working. Xan shared, “The tumors have shrunk dramatically and I’m tolerating treatments remarkably. I still have more progress to make, but I have a shot at survival because of Know Your Tumor.”
Xan has stayed strong throughout treatment, participating in CrossFit and continuing to hang glide. He has also gotten involved with our organization through PurpleStride, our signature walk/run event, by helping raise funds for his team, Yes We Xan. These funds support the very programs that have helped Xan. The team is currently the top fundraising team of all PurpleStride events nationwide and recently hit their $50,000 fundraising goal! We are especially grateful for this support, because this is how we reach more people like Xan and improve the lives of countless others.
“Since last year’s PurpleStride Portland, we’ve lost three of the top five fundraisers to pancreatic cancer,” Xan said. “I met all of them that day, and I carry their torch from where they fell. I need everyone’s help to ensure that more people succeed in this fight, because right now far too many people are losing it.”
Xan and his wife, Sara, are expecting their first child in October. He is thankful that his treatment is going well and looks forward to meeting his son.
“I’ve made it this far in my fight by equipping myself with as much relevant information to my specific case as I can, and the Know Your Tumor service fit squarely into that schema for me,” Xan explained. “Having that test information let me make a snap decision in a very emotional and scary meeting. Without knowing exactly what treatment to start on right away, my chances of actually meeting my son were in jeopardy.”
Take a look at this video showcasing Xan’s strength, shot just before his surgery in May 2015.