Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Last Lecture - Dr. Randy Pausch (DAY 55)

In my blog on April 8 about the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, I ended with a video clip of Dr. Randy Pausch meeting with members of Congress to discuss the importance of increasing funding and awareness for pancreatic cancer. A few days after I posted the blog, ABC did a special about Dr. Pausch and his story has reached millions of people in the last few months. I first learned about Dr. Pausch a few months ago when I was starting up the Nosmokeathon and was doing research on the PanCAN website. Since then, I have spent hours online watching testimony and lectures given by Dr. Pausch, which have really inspired me. I want to share some of what I have found with you.

It all started back in September when Dr. Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, gave his "Last Lecture," a university tradition giving professors a chance to speak to their students as if it were the last time ever. For Dr. Pausch however, this was no hypothetical situation. As a pancreatic cancer patient, the idea of a "Last Lecture" took on a new kind of reality with him. The lecture, titled "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," inspires people to have lofty dreams, like playing football in the NFL, and then to overcome any obstacles that may stand in your way. One lesson from the lecture that particularly stuck with me was, "Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things." The lecture ultimately found its way on to YouTube and has since been viewed by millions, making Pausch a self described overnight celebrity. With this celebrity status, Dr. Pausch has done a great job of making awareness for pancreatic cancer, through testifying for PanCAN and other organizations, to the ABC special, and finally coming out with a book recently, called The Last Lecture, which expands on the lessons talked about in his speech.

Nothing I can write will do justice to this great story. I highly recommend that you take some time and watch the full lecture. It is about 75 minutes long, but well-worth every second. I guarantee you will be glad you watched. I know we are all very busy though, so in addition to making a link below to the full version I am also putting up links to some highlights from the lecture as well as some other video I have found of Dr. Pausch online. If you are not sure you want to watch the full version, watch the clips first and you might just be intrigued enough to do so.

The Last Lecture - Highlights

Dr. Pausch Special on ABC - Full Version

Dr. Pausch on ABC - Highlights

PanCAN Public Service Announcement

Dr. Pausch for the Lustgarten Foundation

Dr. Randy Pausch's Homepage (has many of these videos and more)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

American Cancer Society (DAY 44)

The American Cancer Society (ACS) is a national organization dedicated to fighting cancer through numerous programs and projects. The mission of the ACS is to "eliminate cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service." For more detailed information about the ACS please visit their website, which not only tells about the organization, but which also gives information and support to patients, survivors, and friends and family who may be affected by cancer. I was even able to find a Guide to Quitting Smoking that had some great information for me.

On the website you can also read about the great programs and activities the ACS puts on to raise money and awareness. One of these programs is Relay For Life. Relay For Life is an overnight walkathon that takes place at schools and parks all across the country. Relay is a team event and the goal is to have at least one member of each team walking the entire night. The purpose of Relay is to remember and honor those who have lost their lives to cancer, to support people currently afflicted, and to raise money and awareness in hopes that one day we can overcome cancer once and for all. The Relay started out with one man trying to make a difference. Today over 3 million Americans take part in events all across the country each year! This just goes to show us that one person really can make a huge difference.

I was fortunate to be able to participate in Relay For Life a few years ago at the University of Delaware. It was a great event and really fun. I was on a team with a bunch of my friends which made the whole thing even better. Throughout the night there are different themed laps which add another fun element. There is also a special luminaria ceremony during the night to remember the people that have lost their lives to cancer. In all, Relay For Life is a special event and it makes you feel good to be part of something like that. If you are interested in participating in Relay For Life, the ACS website will help you find one that is in your area and let you know how to get involved.
The American Cancer Soceity

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (DAY 36)

While it is one of the less common forms of cancer, Pancreatic Cancer is one of the deadliest, as it is the fourth leading cause of all cancer deaths. Unlike many other forms of cancer, which have seen decreases in the amount of cases in recent years, the number of people diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer continues to rise. In 2007 it was estimated that over 37,000 people would be diagnosed with the disease in the United States and that over 33,000 would die from it.

Pancreatic Cancer is hard to diagnose and even harder to treat. Symptoms, which include jaundice, significant weight loss, pain in the back or abdomen, and digestive problems, are usually not detected until the later stages of the cancer because they can be vague and easily attributed to other more common health issues. The life expectancy of a patient diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer that has metastasized is just 3 to 6 months. About 80% of Pancreatic Cancer patients are dead within the first year of diagnosis. Only about 5% survive for five years or longer, the lowest survival rate of all the major cancers.

“In 2006, an estimated $66.7 million dollars of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) cancer research investment was spent on pancreatic cancer research. This is just 1% of the NCI’s $4.8 billion dollar cancer research budget for 2006.”

The numbers are alarming, and prove that Pancreatic Cancer is obviously not getting the support or attention which it demands.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) works hard to create awareness for the disease and to advocate for a cure. PanCAN’s mission is “to advance research, support patients and create hope for those affected by pancreatic cancer.”

“The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Inc. (PanCAN) was founded in 1999 to focus national attention on a disease that impacts over 37,000 Americans annually but receives far less consideration than cancers of comparable severity. Initially created as a grass-roots organization, PanCAN has become the national leader in the quest to defeat pancreatic cancer. PanCAN fulfills its mission through a comprehensive strategy that combines directly funding research, generating public policy, providing patient services, and extending community outreach and education nationwide. The organization stands as a beacon of hope for the pancreatic cancer community by providing leadership and unity in the urgent fight to find a cure.”

Dr. Randy Pausch is a Carnegie Melon University professor and a Pancreatic Cancer patient. Last month he visited Capitol Hill to testify before members of Congress on behalf of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Please take a few minutes to watch his moving and compelling testimony.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
The Rhode Island Cancer Council, Inc.
Thanks for the love and support:
Alyce and Marty Jacobson
Jon Silberg
Priya Chandrashaker