PurpleLight Ceremony spreads awareness for pancreatic cancer

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Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

People dressed in purple shirts held up illuminated purple glow sticks underneath the Texas Capitol on Sunday in remembrance of those lost to pancreatic cancer.

November is National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month, and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network hosted the Annual PurpleLight Austin Ceremony to raise awareness of the disease.

Nick Textor, co-chair Austin affiliate for PCAN, said the organization’s main goal is to address the seriousness of the disease by spotlighting victims and survivors.

“The idea is to remember the people that have succumbed to this disease and honor the people that are still alive in hopes that we can raise awareness,” Textor said.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the nation and the only cancer with a survival rate in the single digits, Textor said.

There is no early detection for pancreatic cancer. Textor said 45,000 people will be diagnosed this year and 38,000 will not live to see a one-year anniversary.

“It’s a devastating disease,” Textor said. “Basically when you show symptoms it’s too late.”

Virtually everyone who volunteers for the organization has been touched by pancreatic cancer, including Textor, who said he lost his wife eight years ago to the disease.

“If (you) have lost someone to this disease, you’d understand,” Textor said. “If you haven’t, you probably can’t.”

While there is a very low survival rate, there were still a few survivors at the ceremony including UT computer science alumna Meredith Clarke. Meredith Clarke said she is grateful for all that PCAN does.

“When you’re a survivor, in the beginning you’re just trying to put one foot in front of the other, so it would be very hard to advocate for yourself at that point, so you do rely on all of your friends and family,” Meredith Clarke said. “Then like the people here at (PCAN), take it to the next level.”

Meredith Clarke’s husband and three sons came to the ceremony to support her. Liam Clarke was 13 when his mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015, and he said it has changed his outlook on life.

“I definitely realize how important family is because you realize that anyone could be lost at any time, and after that you realize you have to care about them while they are still there,” Liam Clarke said. “You have to love them while they are still there to love you back.”