November is Pancreatic Cancer and Gastric Cancer Awareness month: I wear purple and periwinkle in November but carry hope for the cause every day.
The world is in chaos as people continue to struggle to make sense of the global pandemic. However, the pandemic is not the only illness that is taking people’s lives. Since the start of the Coronavirus Pandemic, thousands of people lost their battle with various other diseases, including cancer.
While most of us associate November with our Thanksgiving festivities, it is also the awareness month for Pancreatic and Gastric cancer. So, for me, November is the month I associate with the two most profound losses in my life. On November 19th, 2012, my grandmother passed away from pancreatic cancer. It was unexpected, and for my family, it was a loss we struggled to reconcile for years.
We were fortunate to all be with my grandmother when she took her last breath. Five years later, on November 17th, 2017, my father was diagnosed with gastric cancer. His arms comforted me, and his words encouraged me when my grandmother passed away, and the thought of losing my father was inexplicable. There was no one to console me when he passed away.
I believe that losing these two people helped shape me into the woman I am today. Before their cancer diagnoses, neither of them was ever sick and they both ate well, exercised regularly, did not smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs of any kind. They took care of themselves, yet cancer still took their lives. I grieve losing them every day, but especially in November, and even more so around the holidays. And so, as I strive to serve PTC in the role of Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, I hope the biggest impact I have is to encourage people to love genuinely and authentically, regardless of differences.
We divide ourselves by race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, abilities, disabilities, socioeconomic status, and many other things. But cancer does not discriminate. It does not care if you are young, old, rich, poor, black, white, mean, or kind. It ravishes your body, and no amount of money, chemotherapy, radiation, or prayer can save you from the inevitable if it is your time.
If you are fortunate to survive cancer, it continues to live with you in the mental, emotional, physical, and financial scars. You and your loved ones live every day with the fear that, at any time, cancer could rear its ugly head and once again render you helpless. This fear and helplessness should motivate and inspire us to do good, to treat others with kindness and compassion, and most of all, to remember that we are all susceptible to becoming a victim of a life-altering diagnosis, no matter who we are.
I want to believe that we have more in common with our perceived enemies than the inevitability of death. Just as cancer and other life events render us vulnerable, I want each of us to love without limits and see people as people rather than a color or cause. We should do more than mourn the loss of our loved ones or donate to causes during a particular time of the year. We should strive to learn as much as we can about things that not only affect others, but at some point, directly or indirectly, could affect us, too.
I never knew about pancreatic cancer or gastric cancer until they robbed my family of its matriarch and elder. My Grandmother and Father exist today because of the life they lived and the legacy my family honors. There is not a day that goes by when I do not think about them, hear their voice, of feel their gentle touch when the air kisses my cheeks. I strive every day to be a better person than I was yesterday and to honor them with my actions by demonstrating kindness, compassion, empathy, patience, humility, and love.
As you prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving and gather with family and friends, please share the gift of knowledge. Please take time to learn more about pancreatic and gastric cancer. Choose a cause and support it. Remember, cancer does not discriminate.
Pancreatic Cancer – Purple Ribbon
Gastric Cancer – Periwinkle blue Ribbon
Marsha N. Lindsay
Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer