Nov 13, 2015

MY STORY—WORLD PANCREATIC CANCER DAY

By Anggie Becorest, Senior VP of Business Development, ALT

November is an especially reflective time of year for me.

My name is Anggie Becorest and I am a 19-year pancreatic cancer survivor. I feel really blessed to be here because the statistics for pancreatic cancer are quite bleak. As a group, pancreatic cancer patients come with a low survival rate: 73% die within 1 year of being diagnosed, and only 7% survive past 5 years.

Patrick Swayze, Steve Jobs, Sally Ride, Michael Landon, Joan Crawford, and Jimmy Carter’s brother, father, and two sisters are just a few famous people who have died from pancreatic cancer.

It was mid-November, 1996 when I first showed signs of illness. At first, I thought I had the flu. I was lethargic and didn’t have any appetite. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep any food down. The pain in my abdomen radiated to my back. The doctors were struggling to figure out what was wrong with me.

I was referred to an amazing gastroenterologist who wouldn’t give up on me. After 6 months of being poked and prodded with countless tests—ultrasounds, CT scans, MRIs, octreotide scan, endoscopy, colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, and any other “oscopy” you can think of—she confirmed that the irregular shape of my pancreas was due to a rare tumor the size of a golf ball.

What a scary shock this was for me, as I was a young mother to a 2-year old.

As great fortune would have it, my tumor was localized and was encased within the pancreas, away from any vascular structures. There were no metastases to other organs. Thank goodness, because surgery was an option.

There were so many emotions running through me at that time. I felt blessed and humbled, but strangely, I felt very guilty that I didn’t have to endure the additional uncertainty felt by so many affected by this disease.

No one outside of my family and close friends knew I had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer until a few years ago because I didn’t want the stigma of cancer to define me.

Year after year, I quietly went to my doctor to monitor any recurrence of cancer. I celebrated my 10-year anniversary of being cancer free by participating in my first of many triathlons. Three years ago, I decided it was time to come out and give back to the community—a community that needs more advocates.

I became a core volunteer for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

I’ve met many incredible people over the past few years whose strength and courage allow them to continue to fight this disease, and to fight for the countless many who have lost the battle.

I invite you to join me in raising awareness by coloring your November purple for pancreatic cancer.

Find out how you can wage hope during national pancreatic cancer awareness month. >

Learn more about the $600,000 cell-line challenge for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. >