UW News

October 28, 2010

CFD Profile: The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (and its Nov. 7 walk/run)

UW News

Editor’s note: Through the 2010 Combined Fund Drive campaign, University Week will spotlight agencies that receive CFD funds and members of the UW community who volunteer for such organizations. The theme of this year’s drive is “Imagine the Difference We Can Make.”

Gail Wiener has personal reasons to support the important work of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, one of the 2,800 charities supported by the Combined Fund Drive, the UW’s workplace giving campaign. This year’s CFD campaign runs from Oct. 13 to Dec. 3.

She’s a nurse anesthetist at UW Medical Center, and she wants the UW community to know that the network — a nationwide group working to advance research and support patients with pancreatic cancer — will hold a 1K, 3K and 5K run/walk at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 7, at Magnuson Park to raise money for the cause. You can register and learn more online here, and here.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and has the highest mortality rate of all cancers. This year, 42,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and 35,000 will die from the disease. And the incidence of pancreatic cancer is increasing. Wiener knows this well. Both her mother and her aunt died from pancreatic cancer, a family connection that slightly increases her own odds of getting the cancer (one in 10 pancreatic cancer patients had a close relative with the disease).

But it was not until fairly recently that she heard about the Action Network when she asked a friend the meaning of the purple bracelet the woman wore (the friend had lost her mother to the disease a couple of years back). Now, Wiener volunteers for the network, and is in charge of medical sponsorships for Purple Stride, its fundraising Nov. 7 run/walk.

“I don’t want to scare people, but (pancreatic cancer) is a fatal disease, and we need to find a cure and the only way is to be able to do research. It’s hard to do research studies when people live such a short length of time after diagnosis. Unlike some of the other malignancies, this is a harder one to work on.”

She said most of the fellow volunteers she’s met at the Northwest chapter of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network have recently lost a relative to the disease. “There are also some survivors … it’s very emotional because there are so few survivors.” Some of those who survive end up volunteering for the network. “It is their commitment to pancreatic cancer in the midst of fighting the disease that motivates me,” Wiener said.

Learn more about the Combined Fund Drive and the agencies it supports — and sign up to donate — online at the CFD Website.