Less than three months ago, Judy Pearson, an Arlington resident and pancreatic cancer survivor, went before the Board of Selectmen to share her story and spread awareness about her disease.
That night, Nov. 5, the board made a proclamation designating November as “Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month” in Arlington.
On Monday, the board took a moment of silence to remember Pearson, who died on Monday, Jan. 21, after 15-month battle with the disease. Pearson was 49.
In her speech to the board, Pearson, who worked for Lexington’s Department of Public Facilities, highlighted a few key points about pancreatic cancer.
- Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, and in a recent study, it’s projected to become the second leading cause as soon as the year 2015.
- Only six percent of patients live five years, and 75 percent of those patients die within the first year of prognosis. Most die within the first three to six months. That’s why they call it one of these silent diseases.
- There is no cure. There is no effective treatment. There is no early diagnostic test.
- The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is the national organization that is creating hope through patient support, research, community outreach and advocacy for a cure.
In August, Pearson was on a team in the PurpleStride Boston 5K that raised over $15,000 for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
Pearson, who lived at Watermill Place, is survived by her wife Terry Lavin, father Malcolm Pearson of Peabody, brother Jeffrey Pearson and his wife Carrington of Laconia, N.H., and 15 nieces and nephews, as well as 10 great nieces and nephews.
Donations in Pearson’s memory can be made to support Dr. Janet Murphy in the MGH Cancer Center c/o Mass General Development Office, Attn: Lindsay Simpson, 165 Cambridge St., Suite 600, Boston, MA 02114.
Thank you so much, and thank you to all of you for allowing us this time, I really appreciate the Board of Selectmen working on behalf of our community to sign a proclamation to say that, “November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month in the community of Arlington.”
As Marlene said, my name is Judy Pearson. I live here in Arlington at Watermill Place. I have been living with pancreatic cancer for 13 months. Last October, at the age of 48, I was diagnosed. I was living a very active, healthy life, and I had a very small stich in my left side, went to my primary care physician, been seeing her for 20-plus years at Mass General Hospital, go for all my annual physicals that sort of thing, and at the time, there wasn’t a lot to be worried about, she thought it was something muscular, “maybe it didn’t knead back together, certainly be in touch if you have any issues, let’s not let it get any worse” and so forth.
So within a couple weeks, I called her right back up, and I’m like, “I know my body, something’s not right.” She scheduled me for a CAT Scan, my first one ever. I was immediately diagnosed with Stage IV advanced pancreatic cancer. My primary tumor was on the tail of my pancreas, but it had already metastasized to my liver.
At that point, I was told it was inoperable, it was very serious and it was life changing. And yes, it has been life changing, the last 13 months.
My partner is here with me Terry Lavin. This is a journey that families go through. We are on this journey together, but it is a very different journey for me as the patient as it is for her as the caregiver.
With that said though, however, I’ve had some really good success. I went through 11 rounds of chemotherapy, very intense, every two weeks, between last October and March. I had such good success with scans that I then became surgery eligible. In May, I had surgery to remove the tail of my pancreas, my spleen, because that goes with it, and a small lobe of my liver.
And at that point, the margins were clean, the pathologies looked good but of course they don’t guarantee you anything. There’s always a chance that scans can have these little cells that they don’t see. So sure enough, at the very end of July, early August, after scans, I had a recurrence.
Since August, I’ve been back in chemotherapy. To say that we were profoundly saddened is an understatement. You know, the fact that it came back, but came back so soon was just, you know, very difficult, but the whole balance of optimism, realism, some healthy denial I think is really good, positive attitude I think is really important. Like I said, I’ve been in chemotherapy since August, the fight goes on. I have been told that someone in my situation probably has months rather than years, so again, I personally cannot thank you enough.
I have a sister-in-law who’s in North Reading doing this tonight. I work for the Town of Lexington, the selectmen signed a proclamation last week. We have people trying to really, really really spread awareness.
And as [Joseph Curro], you said in the proclamation some of the statistics, if you don’t mind, I just want to take a second to sort of bang home some of those.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. In a recent study, it’s projected to become the second leading cause as soon as the year 2015.
Only six percent of patients live five years, and 75 percent of those patients die within the first year of prognosis. Most die within the first three to six months, and that’s why they call it one of these silent diseases. Like in my situation, I had nothing, you know, minimal symptoms. They said my tumor had probably been there five years, and then when I was diagnosed, it was very advanced.
There is no cure. There is no effective treatment. There is no early diagnostic test. And therefore, we really, really, really need the help to spread awareness. Just by people hearing pancreatic cancer and what does that mean. I didn’t even know what the pancreas did, and now, you know, I have a master’s degree in not only the pancreas but pancreatic cancer.
Just today, I had chemotherapy. I’m on this every week cycle right now, it’s kind of crazy. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is the national organization that is creating hope through patient support, research, community outreach and advocacy for a cure.
They set a very bold goal and that is to double the survival rate by the year 2020, hopefully that can happen. I pray that I can see that happen.
The key hear is to know it, to fight it and to end it, and we just had a great month of breast awareness where we were all wearing [pink], and we ask that we turn that pink into purple … for the month of November. And again heartfelt thanks to all of you and for taking the time for this, we appreciate it.
And please I know there’s a mess of purple ribbons, pancreatic cancer. We ask that you please take them, wear them, leave them out on tables, give them to people, little information about the PanCAN, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Thank you so much.