THIS GUEST BLOG BY: Brock N. Cordeiro, volunteer with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Boston Affiliate.

America is focused upon the titanic post-Election Day struggle between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and rightly so. Yet, with all eyes focused upon the aftermath of November 3, I want to call your attention to November 8 and the death of Alex Trebek.

Most people will fondly remember the host of Jeopardy! A great many of us grew up watching him on television, so much that Mr. Trebek almost became America's honorary and much-beloved adopted uncle. After a courageous public battle with pancreatic cancer, we collectively lost that loved one.

However, Alex Trebek was just the most recent public loss. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on September 18 and Congressman John Lewis, the civil rights leader, died on July 17, 2020. Speaking of Jeopardy!, Art Fleming, the original host, also died from the same disease. Other famous names lost to pancreatic cancer include Steve Jobs of Apple and actors Patrick Swayze, Michael Landon, and Alan Rickman. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) maintains a list of public figures, and it's far too lengthy to reproduce here. You may access it at http://media.pancan.org/pdf/PublicFigures.pdf.

Pancreatic cancer has been called the world's toughest cancer as only recently the five-year survival rate reached 10 percent. Over 70 percent of pancreatic cancer patients die within the first year of diagnosis. An estimated 57,600 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States, and approximately 47,050 will die from the disease in 2020.

In Massachusetts, those figures are 1,250 diagnoses and 1,020 deaths.

Pancreatic is the third deadliest cancer in the United States, behind only lung and colorectal cancer. Pancreatic cancer was projected to become number two as early as this year. Per the American Cancer Society, pancreatic is already the second deadliest form of cancer in Massachusetts.

The disease often only manifests vague symptoms and its location in the body makes early detection very difficult. To learn more about pancreatic cancer please see the American Cancer Society at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer.html and discover what is available from PanCAN's Patient and Caregiver Services at https://www.pancan.org/facing-pancreatic-cancer/patient-services.

Please remember that November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, nationally but especially here in Massachusetts as proclaimed yet again for 2020 by Governor Charlie Baker. Let it be known that Thursday, November 19 is World Pancreatic Cancer Day 2020. Purple is the color of pancreatic cancer awareness and on that day, on any and every day of November, I ask that you please take wear something purple and post it on social media with the hashtags #WPCD or #ItsAboutTime.

Let awareness of this disease be known from border to border and from sea to shining sea, as I fear that far too often the sight of the purple light is lost.

Please contact your members of Congress, to your United States Representative and Senators, and urge them to support House Resolution 1204 and Senate Resolution 757, both expressing support for the designation of November 2020 as "Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month."

Please contact your Massachusetts Representative and Senator and ask them to implement the Recommendations of the Final Report by the Special Legislative Commission to Study Pancreatic Cancer. That report may be found at https://www.mass.gov/orgs/the-special-commission-to-study-pancreatic-cancer.

For all the public faces of pancreatic cancer, like Mr. Trebek, there are multiple times more private faces of pancreatic cancer who battle bravely in the face of daunting odds. My father, Norman Cordeiro of Dartmouth, was one of those faces who lost his battle on March 30, 2014, at St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford.

However, since becoming involved with the Boston affiliate of PanCAN, I have met several people who have defied common expectations and are long-term survivors. There is hope! Indeed, some of the sayings of those the fight against pancreatic cancer are WAGE HOPE, DEMAND BETTER, BE BOLD, KNOW IT! FIGHT IT! END IT! and HONOR. INSPIRE. REMEMBER.

Be it November, or any month of any year, those are words by which to live.

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. 

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