THIS GUEST BLOG BY: Brock N. Cordeiro, Republican State Committeeman from Dartmouth.

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. If you do not believe me, just ask Mayor Jon Mitchell of New Bedford, the Dartmouth Select Board, or Governor Charlie Baker, all of whom signed proclamations making it official. Even New Bedford City Hall is lit purple, the color of pancreatic cancer awareness, throughout the month. Yet, while I often call into WBSM and speak with Phil Paleologos about various things pancreatic cancer, this year there is more to do than be aware, now is the time to act.

Sometimes people criticize "awareness" campaigns as mere symbolism, but now we undeniably have substance, and we can partake in substantive action.

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I testified virtually in support of An Act to Reduce Incidence and Death from Pancreatic Cancer (House Bill 2304/Senate Bill 1385) before the Massachusetts legislature's Joint Committee on Public Health on the morning of Wednesday, November 10.

Courtesy Brock Cordeiro

I was joined by Representative Carmine Gentile of Sudbury, who lost both of his parents to pancreatic cancer. The legislation, written largely by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network of Massachusetts, has seventy-seven individual, bicameral, and bipartisan cosponsors. We legislatively make Pancreatic Purple by mixing Blue Democrats and Red Republicans as pancreatic cancer is a nonpartisan disease that kills indiscriminately, regardless of ideology or party registration.

I used my three minutes of testimony time to both explain why the legislation was necessary and also to tell the Public Health Committee members the story of my dad, Norman Cordeiro of Dartmouth, who died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 66 years old on March 30, 2014, at St. Luke’s Hospital after a courageous battle of a little over six months. Yet while I testified orally, I also submitted written testimony – and you can too.

You can reach out to the 17 members of the Joint Committee on Public Health and tell them that you support An Act to Reduce Incidence and Death from Pancreatic Cancer (H.2304/S.1385). Let them know that you want them to take favorable action and report the legislation out of committee with the recommendation that it ought to pass. The Act would implement the Recommendations of the Final Report of the Special Legislative Commission to Study Pancreatic Cancer. You can submit your written testimony to the Joint Committee on Public Health at JointCommittee.PublicHealth@malegislature.gov.

You may learn more about An Act to reduce incidence and death from pancreatic cancer (House Bill 2304/Senate Bill 1385) by going to https://malegislature.gov/Bills/192/H2304 and https://malegislature.gov/Bills/192/S1385. You may read the Final Report of the Special Legislative Commission to Study Pancreatic Cancer at https://www.mass.gov/orgs/the-special-commission-to-study-pancreatic-cancer.

I will not list all 77 co-sponsors here from across the Commonwealth, and many were from Bristol and Plymouth Counties, but I do want to take this opportunity to say thank you! Thank you especially to Senator Joanne Comerford of Northampton for being the Lead Sponsor of S.1385 & Representative Carmine Gentile of Sudbury for being the Lead Sponsor of H.2304. I also want to thank publicly the legislative delegation of Greater New Bedford (and most from across the SouthCoast) for their support. THANK YOU: Senator Mark Montigny and Representatives Antonio Cabral, Christopher Hendricks, Christopher Markey, Paul Schmid, William Straus, Carole Fiola, Norman Orrall, Steven Howitt, and Carol Doherty for being co-sponsors. These local elected officials are truly SouthCoast Voices against pancreatic cancer!

I encourage and implore everyone to contact your elected officials, to either thank them for their support or to seek their support for An Act to Reduce Incidence and Death from Pancreatic Cancer (H.2304/S.1385). You will find the contact information for our legislative elected officials at https://malegislature.gov/Legislators/Members/Senate and https://malegislature.gov/Legislators/Members/House. More specifically, you may find the contact information for the members of the Joint Committee on Public Health at https://malegislature.gov/Committees/Detail/J16.

We can take more action this month to raise awareness and fight pancreatic cancer! Thursday, November 18 is World Pancreatic Cancer Day 2021 (WPCD) (always the third Thursday of November). It would be wonderful to take photos of New Bedford City Hall all lit purple and share them on social media with #WPCD & #ItsAboutTime. Perhaps put on your favorite purple tie, shirt, dress, socks, etc. and post a selfie to raise awareness. Learn more about WPCD at https://www.worldpancreaticcancercoalition.org/. As important as it is to share the symbolism of WPCD, please take the time to learn about the signs & symptoms of pancreatic cancer and share those on social media, and to your family & friends.

World Pancreatic Cancer Day 2021 is also the date of two especially notable events:
Join the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) for a free, live event – Early Detection and Better Treatments: How Testing Plays a Critical Role. This online seminar will be hosted by PanCAN’s President and CEO, Julie Fleshman from 2:00 to 3:00 PM and feature a panel of pancreatic cancer experts and a five-year pancreatic cancer survivor. More information may be found at
https://www.pancan.org/facing-pancreatic-cancer/patient-services/educational-events/event/webinar/early-detection-and-better-treatments-how-testing-plays-a-critical-role/

The Grand Opening of Immunovia, Inc. in Marlborough, Massachusetts. The event is from 3:00 to 7:00 PM and includes discounted pricing on their new IMMray PanCan-d test for individuals at high-risk for developing pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). This is the first early detection blood test of its type in the world. Please learn more about this opportunity at https://www.grandopeningnov18.com/.

Now is also a wonderful opportunity to become involved with PanCAN Boston, the local affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. I am a volunteer and on Sunday, November 7th we hosted our PurpleLight 2021 ceremony to “Honor. Inspire. Remember.” as we hosted a virtual luminaria and name roll call ceremony. Normally, PurpleLight is held at the Parkman Bandstand of the Boston Common, but due to the ongoing pandemic and the fact that cancer patients are immunocompromised we went virtual this year.

PanCAN Boston is already preparing for PurpleStride 2022, our annual walk to end pancreatic cancer! Our next PurpleStride, on Saturday, April 30, 2022, at 9:00 AM, will once again be held as a walk around the Boston Common. Every PanCAN affiliate across America will hold their event on the same day as a “Great Purple Army” walking, marching & striding against pancreatic cancer! Sign up to join us at www.purplestride.org/boston. However, I want to thank the Buttonwood Park Zoo for allowing me last year to dress up ridiculously in a silly purple outfit and walk around inside during their Boo at the Zoo 2020 so that I could fulfill my fundraising commitment with my own personal PurpleStride.

You may be asking yourself, “that is a lot of activity but why should I care? What does it matter to me?” Well, perhaps your family has been truly fortunate, and you have not been personally touched by pancreatic cancer. However, I suspect that you know of Alex Trebek of Jeopardy! Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Congressman John Lewis, Steve Jobs of Apple, singers Aretha Franklin & Luciano Pavarotti, NASA Astronaut Sally Ride, or actors Patrick Swayze, Michael Landon & Alan Rickman.

Pancreatic cancer is often called “America’s Toughest Cancer” as it has a 5-year survival rate of only 10%, and that only very recently rose out of the single digits. Over 70% of pancreatic cancer patients will die within the first year of diagnosis. Due to the location of the pancreas within the body, and that its cancer usually presents only vague symptoms, coupled with the fact of historically there being no early detection diagnostic test, pancreatic cancer is usually detected in its latest stages when treatment options are minimal. Pancreatic cancer is the second deadliest form of cancer in Massachusetts, behind only lung cancer. Across America, pancreatic cancer is the third deadliest (behind only lung & colorectal and ahead of breast cancer).

To quote the late Congressman John Lewis, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” Rep. Lewis died from pancreatic cancer on July 17, 2020. I write to urge you to embrace symbolism and act now!

Editor's Note: 'SouthCoast Voices' is a series of guest blogs from newsmakers across the region, on relevant issues that directly impact the people of Greater New Bedford and the surrounding communities. The opinions are solely those of the author. If you are interested in contributing, please contact tim@wbsm.com for more information.