Editor’s note: Our weekly “It Starts with Someone” series takes a turn this month as we focus solely on people who have survived pancreatic cancer for more than a decade. Today, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) volunteer leader and 20-year survivor Lisa Beckendorf shares her story.
In 1998, I was diagnosed with pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer. At the time, I was in my early 30s and the last thing on my mind was cancer, especially this kind.
I did not even know what my pancreas did, and as the saying goes, “ignorance is bliss.” As I’ve learned over the years, this diagnosis could have had a completely different outcome.
Since this type of pancreatic cancer was so rare, my only option for treatment was surgery – at that time, there was no chemotherapy standard of care. I was not given an official prognosis by Mayo Clinic, only intense follow-up for the first five years after diagnosis. After that period, I was told I had “graduated” from oncology and to go live my life.
Fast-forward to the fall of 2012 when my life changed for the better at a pancreatic cancer symposium hosted by Mayo Clinic. It was there that I met the current Affiliate Chair of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Minnesota Affiliate, Brenda Coleman, who was a pancreatic cancer survivor. That was my first introduction to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
Brenda was the keynote speaker at the symposium, and she inspired me to get involved. I became the Event Chair for our Minnesota bike/walk fundraiser – PurpleRideStride.
As I continued to become familiar with the organization and the disease, I began to realize how incredibly lucky I am to still be here today.
The volunteers and staff at PanCAN have become like family – in fact, we often refer to each other as our “purple family.”
The support has been incredible, and it is so exciting to see the progress the organization has made since I became involved in 2012.
Even though this diagnosis has changed my life forever, I am so grateful for this organization and the people I’ve met along the way.
— Lisa Beckendorf, 20-year pancreatic cancer survivor (as of this week!)