San Diego’s 2013 PurpleStride 5K Run/Walk for Pancreatic Cancer on October 13 represented much more than just a good cause for BioSurplus’ VP Technology Services Anggie Becorest. As a 16-year survivor of pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest of all cancers, Becorest celebrated her own rare survival.
As the keynote speaker, Becorest delivered an emotional speech to more than 1200 participants with the hope of bettering the odds for the tens of thousands of people diagnosed each year with the disease.
It was November 1996 when Becorest suddenly fell ill with severe stomach and back pain and found herself unable to keep food down. Because of the lack of reliable diagnostic tests, it took 6 months and many procedures to finally confirm that she had a rare form of pancreatic cancer.
Doctors found a neuroendocrine tumor the size of a golf ball at the tail end of her pancreas. She was immediately scheduled for surgery and underwent the first successful laparoscopic pancreatectomy performed in the U.S.
Becorest feels very fortunate to be a 16-year survivor. Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of most major cancers – 74 percent of diagnosed patients die within one year of diagnosis. The five-year survival rate is just six percent.
Despite the sobering statistics, only two percent of the National Cancer Institute’s federal research funding is allocated to pancreatic cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer death rates have been slowly increasing among U.S. men and women over the past decade, in contrast to the downward trend in rates for most other major cancers such as lung, colon, breast, and prostate.
The lack of progress in primary prevention, early diagnosis and treatment underscores the need for additional efforts in pancreatic cancer research.
Becorest says she was reluctant to discuss her sickness with people outside of close family members.
“My emotions were very mixed. I felt humbled and blessed, but also guilty that I did not have to endure the additional uncertainty felt by so many affected with this disease. I didn’t want to be associated with the cancer stigma … I wanted to feel normal.”
She quietly went to her gastroenterologist annually for 10 years to monitor the disease. She celebrated her 10-year anniversary by training and participating in her first triathlon.
She has now come full circle and is ready to give back. Becorest will be volunteering as the San Diego Affiliate Coordinator for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, the national organization creating hope in a comprehensive way through research, patient support, community outreach and advocacy for a cure.
“PurpleStride San Diego is meant as a day of hope and inspiration for people who have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer as well as a tribute to people who have passed away from this terrible disease,” said Mike Gau, a spokesperson for the volunteers of the San Diego Affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. “Money raised helps fund personalized support for patients, their families and caregivers, as well as supporting research that will hopefully lead to better treatment options to increase survival for pancreatic cancer patients.”
In 2013, more than 45,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and nearly 38,500 will die from the disease. This devastating disease has claimed the lives of many public figures, including Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, actor Patrick Swayze, physicist and first American woman in space, Sally Ride, Nobel Prize winner Dr. Ralph Steinman, Carnegie Mellon University Professor Dr. Randy Pausch, actor Michael Landon, and opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti.
To learn more about the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and the San Diego Affiliate, visit www.pancan.org.