Famous pancreatic cancer survivors

Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer Given 4 Months to Live: Steve Lockwood

Eight Years Strong: Surviving Pancreatic Cancer

In April 2010, a then 59-year-old Steve Lockwood was experiencing abdominal pain.
He began treating it with aspirin, but the pain continued to linger. A month went by without any change, so his physician ordered “a battery of tests,” including a CT scan, to determine the cause.

Diagnosis: Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer With 4 Months To Live

Steve’s diagnosis wasn’t good.

He had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. “Since the outcome of this type of cancer is poor, I was somewhat discouraged,” said Steve. “I wanted to know what the timeline might be for survival, so I could get my affairs in order.”

Steve was told he had only four months to live.
Determined to not give up, his wife Joannie (a registered nurse), began gathering information and asking people for referrals.

Her co-worker, whose mother was a patient, immediately recommended Robert Nagourney, MD, medical director at Rational Therapeutics (now Nagourney Cancer Institute).

“She spoke very highly of him”, said Joannie. So, they called and scheduled a consult.

Meeting Dr. Nagourney

Even from the beginning, “Dr. Nagourney was very honest about my case,” said Steve. “He made no promises but told us he had success in similar cases”.
Dr. Nagourney explained the processes, the procedures Steve would go through and how the results would determine his treatment.

Depending on the results of Steve’s functional profiling, Dr. Nagourney would identify the best drug or combination of drugs to kill his specific cancer cells.

Talking to Other Oncologists

Steve and Joannie wanted to make sure they considered all options before deciding on the best treatment plan for them.

They consulted with a local oncologist. “When we said we had seen Dr. Nagourney, she was not familiar with him. After we explained his process, she said we were wasting our money, his method was out of date, and I should get my affairs in order.

Next, they tried University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

“The doctor was very upfront” said Steve. He said he had little to offer because of the type of cells involved and the conventional therapy he would use did not have a particularly good outcome.”

Finally they went to City of Hope.
“Again, the doctor was very good; however, he said he had nothing but conventional therapy to offer and that I might as well stay with Dr. Nagourney, since it was closer to home”, said Steve.

The Best Choice: Functional Profiling with Dr. Nagourney

Armed with all their research and information, Steve and Joannie decided to go with Dr. Nagourney’s course of treatment.
“It made the most sense to us and has been the right decision,” said Joannie.
Steve’s functional profiling had a surprising result.

The test showed Steve’s cancer was sensitive to several current cancer medications, however, the combination of the three drugs that he appeared to be most sensitive to was entirely novel for this disease.

Steve began the chemotherapy Dr. Nagourney recommended.

His treatment was a “cocktail” of three medications, consisting of Gemzar (used for the treatment of pancreatic cancer), with Xeloda (used for breast or colorectal drug), and Cisplatin (a treatment for multiple types of cancers).

“The first couple of months my numbers continued to rise, but once my numbers started to fall they fell fast”, said Steve.

Within six months his markers were normal, and he was put on only maintenance medications.

“The combination of medications Dr. Nagourney picked for him is why Steve did so well”, said Joannie.

Living a Normal Life

It has now been eight years since Steve received his Stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis and being told he only had months to live.
He is no longer on any medications and is living a normal life. He is riding his horse, traveling, and enjoying time with his wife.

“In the beginning it was not a good prognosis, but things did turn around and I’m here today to talk about it,” said Steve.
“I feel better now in some ways than I did before I was diagnosed”, said Steve. “We appreciate every day for what it is… a miracle”.

Call us today at 1-800-542-4357 or email us through our CONTACT US page to see how the Nagourney Cancer Institute can help you identify the most effective pancreatic cancer treatment based on analyzing your unique cancer cell makeup. Our functional profiling analysis is more powerful than genomic testing that most centers offer and provides insights that can inform drug selection and treatment decisions.

Pancreatic cancer

Find out about survival for pancreatic cancer.

Survival depends on many different factors. So no one can tell you exactly how long you will live. It depends on your:

  • type and stage of cancer
  • level of fitness
  • previous treatment

These are general statistics based on large groups of patients. Remember, they can’t tell you what will happen in your individual case.

Your doctor can give you more information about your own outlook (prognosis). You can also talk about this with the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Survival by stage

Most pancreatic cancers are a type called adenocarcinoma. They are also called exocrine tumours.

Survival for early stages of pancreatic cancer

If the cancer hasn’t spread outside the pancreas and surgery is possible, between 7 and 25 out of 100 people (7 to 25%) will survive for 5 years or more.

In people who don’t live this long, it is likely that a small number of cancer cells had spread from the pancreas before surgery and travelled to other parts of the body. These cells would have been too small to be picked up on scans, but can grow into other tumours later.

Advanced stages

The following figures are for median survival. Median survival is the length of time from either diagnosis or treatment, to the point at which half of the patients are still alive.

Cancer that has spread beyond the pancreas into surrounding tissues is called locally advanced cancer or stage 3. If it can’t be removed by an operation, the median survival is about 6 to 11 months.

For cancer that has spread to another part of the body (stage 4) the median survival is only between 2 and 6 months. But this can vary depending on how much the cancer has grown and where it has spread.

There are no UK-wide statistics for pancreatic cancer survival by stage. These statistics are from international studies and from one area of England: the Northern and Yorkshire Cancer Registry and Information Service (NYCRIS).

Survival for all stages of pancreatic cancer

Generally for adults with pancreatic cancer in England and Wales:

  • around 20 in every 100 (around 20%) survive their cancer for 1 year or more after they are diagnosed
  • almost 5 out of every 100 (almost 5%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more
  • only 1 out of every 100 (1%) will survive their cancer for 10 years or more after diagnosis

One reason for the poor outlook for pancreatic cancer is that it is often diagnosed late. By the time someone has symptoms, goes to their doctor and is diagnosed, the cancer is very often quite advanced.

About 8 out of every 100 people (8%) can have surgery to remove their pancreas, which gives the best chance of cure.

Survival for pancreatic endocrine tumours

Pancreatic endocrine (or neuroendocrine) tumours are an uncommon type of pancreatic cancer. They generally have a better outlook than adenocarcinoma of the pancreas. These statistics are from an American study, looking at patients diagnosed between 1985 and 2004.

Please be aware that due to differences in health care systems, data collection and the population, these figures are not an accurate picture of survival in the UK.

  • 55 out of 100 people (55%) who have surgery for an early stage tumour survive for 5 years or more
  • Around 15 out of 100 people (around 15%) who are unable to have surgery survive for 5 years or more.

What affects survival

Your outlook depends on the stage of the cancer when it was diagnosed. This means how big it is and whether it has spread.

The type of cancer and grade of the cancer cells can also affect your likely survival. Grade means how abnormal the cells look under the microscope.

Your general health and fitness also affect survival because overall, the fitter you are, the better you may be able to cope with your cancer and treatment.

About these statistics

The terms 1 year survival and 5 year survival don’t mean that you will only live for 1 or 5 years. They relate to the number of people who are still alive 1 year or 5 years after their diagnosis of cancer.

Some people live much longer than 5 years.

More information about statistics

Read more about understanding cancer statistics and incidence, mortality and survival statistics.

For more in depth information about survival and other statistics for pancreatic cancer, go to our Cancer Statistics section.

  • Symptom management and supportive care, provided early in your diagnosis as well as during and after treatment
  • Contact Patient Central to learn more about these options.

    Survivor Stories

    Read stories about survivors sharing personal experiences, information and hope.

    Patient Central can also connect patients and their loved ones with others one-on-one through the Survivor & Caregiver Network.

    How Is the Survival Rate Determined?

    For the five-year survival rate, SEER uses data from different areas throughout the country. When SEER was first developed, there were nine places that data were gathered from, making up the SEER-9 database.

    SEER’s database has grown to 18 regions now, called SEER-18. But, they continue to use the SEER-9 data as the benchmark to compare survival rate trends over time.

    To get the five-year survival rate, numbers must be analyzed over a range of time. This means that the patients included in the analysis received treatment and care that may be different from today. Knowledge and treatment have improved in recent years.

    There are many other ways to look at survival. Besides the five-year survival rate, people also measure:

    • Overall survival: the length of time from diagnosis to a patient’s death
    • Progression-free survival: how long a person stays on a treatment without their disease getting worse
    • Disease-free survival: the amount of time a person is believed to be cancer-free, also known as “no evidence of disease”

    These other survival measurements are often used to judge success of clinical trials.

    Why Is Early Detection Important?

    Patients whose disease is diagnosed in its earlier stages have better outcomes. This is due to a greater likelihood that they are eligible for surgery.

    The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and others are working to find pancreatic cancer earlier through:

    • Awareness of symptoms
    • Studies focused on biomarkers (biological clues that can show signs of disease)
    • Efforts to improve imaging techniques
    • Efforts to improve the identification and monitoring of people at higher risk for the disease

    We’re Here to Help

    Contact Patient Central for free pancreatic cancer resources, information and support, including information about the latest treatment options.

    Related Topics

    • Diagnosis

      Find out how pancreatic cancer is diagnosed and what to do next.

    • Early Detection

      Learn why early detection improves outcomes but is a major challenge.

    • Treatment Types

      Explore treatment options, including surgery, standard treatments and clinical trials.

    • Resources, Support and Research

      See what other resources are available and how you can contribute to research.

    • Patient Registry

      Accelerate research by sharing your experiences in our global online database.

    Page last updated January 2020

    Information provided by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Inc. (“PanCAN”) is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or other health care services. PanCAN may provide information to you about physicians, products, services, clinical trials or treatments related to pancreatic cancer, but PanCAN does not recommend nor endorse any particular health care resource. In addition, please note any personal information you provide to PanCAN’s staff during telephone and/or email communications may be stored and used to help PanCAN achieve its mission of assisting patients with, and finding cures and treatments for, pancreatic cancer. Stored constituent information may be used to inform PanCAN programs and activities. Information also may be provided in aggregate or limited formats to third parties to guide future pancreatic cancer research and education efforts. PanCAN will not provide personal directly identifying information (such as your name or contact information) to such third parties without your prior written consent unless required or permitted by law to do so. For more information on how we may use your information, you can find our privacy policy on our website at https://www.pancan.org/privacy/.

    Early-stage pancreatic cancer is primarily treated with surgery. However, only about half of early-stage pancreatic cancer patients in the U.S. are referred to a surgeon or a comprehensive cancer center and undergo surgery. A common misconception about pancreatic cancer is the lack of treatment options and the grim prognosis. But if caught early, pancreatic cancer is treatable and potentially curable. It’s critically important to educate patients about the options and the importance of early detection.

    Pancreatic cancer is called a silent killer because it often grows or spreads undetected. And like many cancers, it presents few warning signs. Symptoms often resemble other illnesses, such as diabetes, and may include:

    • Dark urine, pale stools
    • Stools that float in the toilet
    • Middle back pain, that is unrelieved by position change
    • Non-specific upper belly pain
    • Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
    • Persistent nausea and vomiting
    • Unexplained weight loss
    • Loss of appetite; feeling of fullness

    Pancreatic Cancer Risk Assessment

    Find out if you qualify for pancreatic cancer screening at Roswell Park.

    Check Your Eligibility

    A combination of two or more of these symptoms should lead to an evaluation of pancreatic cancer, especially for those with a history of tobacco use or someone with a family history of cancer.

    By allowing a team of experts like we have at Roswell Park to properly evaluate the stage of disease, patients are offered the best hope for treatment success.

    If a patient presents with a more advanced stage of pancreatic cancer, chemotherapy or a new targeted drug treatment may be offered through our clinical research studies. Many of these new drugs are showing great promise in improving response rates, survival rates and quality of life.

    If you know someone who has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, please spread the word. Pancreatic cancer that is found early enough can be removed by surgery and, in many cases, cured.

    For more information, visit our Liver and Pancreas Tumor Center website or call at 1-800-ROSWELL (1-800-767-9355) for advice, to make an appointment, or for a second opinion.

    Roswell Park is proud to be one of only 42 centers nationwide recognized as an NPF Center for pancreatic cancer.

    Joe Jackson and Other Celebrities That Died of Pancreatic Cancer

    Joe Jackson, American talent manager and patriarch of the Jackson family, lost his battle with pancreatic cancer on Wednesday, July 27th. The man who gave us Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, and of course, The Jackson 5 was 89 when he passed.

    Joe Jackson lost his battle with pancreatic cancer on July 27, 2018. | Ian Gavan/Getty Images

    Joe Jackson isn’t the only celebrity to lose a battle with pancreatic cancer. We take a closer look at some of the most notable celebrities who died of pancreatic cancer, ahead.

    1. Patrick Swayze

    When Patrick Swayze was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer in 2008, he had only a few months to live. However, Swayze beat the odds and battled the disease for 20 months before passing away on September 14, 2009.

    2. Steve Jobs

    Steve Jobs was diagnosed with rare form of pancreatic cancer — called pancreatic neuroendocrine, or islet cell tumors — in August 2004. Apple’s co-founder famously kept his battle with cancer quiet but shared the information with employees in a company-wide email. “I have some personal news that I need to share with you, and I wanted you to hear it directly from me,” he wrote. “I had a very rare form of pancreatic cancer called an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor, which represents about 1 percent of the total cases of pancreatic cancer diagnosed each year, and can be cured by surgical removal if diagnosed in time (mine was). I will not require any chemotherapy or radiation treatments,” he added.

    Following the surgery, Jobs continued with his career. However, in 2006, his health started to decline again, and in 2011, Jobs stepped down as CEO of Apple. The computer mogul died shortly after on October 5, 2011.

    I have seen more sunsets than I have left to see. The sun rises when the time comes and whether you like it or not the sun sets when the time comes. pic.twitter.com/PGcmbulzyC

    — Joseph Jackson (@Joe5Jackson) June 24, 2018

    3. Joe Jackson

    Joe Jackson had a history of health problems — including stroke and heart arrhythmia — before being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In an interview with Daily Mail on June 21st, his son, Jermaine Jackson told Daily Mail “He’s very, very frail, he doesn’t have long. The family needs to be by his bedside — that’s our only intention in his final days.” And on Sunday, June 24th, Joe Jackson took to Twitter to share some final thoughts, stating: “I have seen more sunsets than I have left to see. The sun rises when the time comes and whether you like it or not the sun sets when the time comes.” Joe Jackson died in the early morning on June 27, 2018, TMZ reports.

    Alan Rickman was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August 2015. | Heyday Films

    4. Alan Rickman

    In August 2015, Alan Rickman suffered a minor stroke that led doctors to the discovery of pancreatic cancer. At the time, Rickman concealed the severity of his disease from the public and even attended charity events and first nights in the months leading up to his death. The actor grew seriously ill around Christmas 2015 and lost his battle on January 14, 2016.

    5. Sally Ride

    Sally Ride, NASA astronaut and the first American woman to go to space, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2011. Like Swayze, she fought long and hard, but ultimately lost her battle after 17 months and passed away on July 23, 2012.

    6. Donna Reed

    When American film actress, Donna Reed was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 1985, she was already in the terminal stage. After a three month battle, Reed passed away on January 14, 1986.

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    Getty Images

    In their announcement of founder Steve Jobs’ death, at age 56, Apple officials did not mention a specific cause of death. But the visionary digital leader had been battling pancreatic cancer since 2004.

    Pancreatic cancer is one of the faster spreading cancers; only about 4% of patients can expect to survive five years after their diagnosis. Each year, about 44,000 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S., and 37,000 people die of the disease.

    The pancreas contains two types of glands: exocrine glands that produce enzymes that break down fats and proteins, and endocrine glands that make hormones like insulin that regulate sugar in the blood. Jobs died of tumors originating in the endocrine glands, which are among the rarer forms of pancreatic cancer.

    IN MEMORIAM: Technology’s Great Reinventor: Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

    In 2004, Jobs underwent surgery to remove the cancer from his pancreas. In 2009, after taking another leave of absence from Apple, Jobs had a liver transplant in an effort to retain as much of his organ function as possible after his cancer had spread beyond the pancreas. In January, he took a third leave from the company before resigning as CEO in August.

    “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know,” Jobs wrote in a letter to the Apple board of directors on August 24. “Unfortunately, that day has come.”

    According to experts, Jobs’ was an uphill medical battle. “He not only had cancer, he was battling the immune suppression after the liver transplant,” Dr. Timothy Donahue of the UCLA Center for Pancreatic Disease in Los Angeles, who had not treated Jobs, told MSNBC.com. He noted that most patients who receive liver transplants survive about two years after the surgery.

    Standard treatments for pancreatic cancer include the common tumor-fighting strategies — surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and, most recently, targeted anticancer drugs that may slightly extend patients’ lives. In 2005, the Food and Drug Administration approved erlotinib, a drug that specifically targets growth factors found on cancer cells, for the treatment of patients with advanced pancreatic cancer who are receiving chemotherapy. The drug has been shown in trials to improve overall survival by 23% after a year when added to routine chemotherapy. The tumors in patients being treated with erlotinib and chemo also develop more slowly than those in patients receiving chemotherapy alone.

    PHOTOS: The Long, Extraordinary Career of Steve Jobs

    Because of the poor prognosis of pancreatic cancer, however, many patients elect to try alternative therapies, including a popular therapy known as the Gonzalez regimen, which involves fighting pancreatic tumors with pancreatic enzymes. Patients on the Gonzalez regimen also take a large number of nutritional supplements, including vitamins and minerals such as magnesium citrate, along with coffee enemas performed twice a day.

    The treatment’s developer, Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez of New York, has claimed that the use of pancreatic enzymes is a powerful way to suppress the growth of advanced pancreatic cancer cells. But a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2009, which compared groups of patients on the Gonzalez regiment to patients on standard chemotherapy treatment, found that those on chemo survived for a median of 14 months while those on the alternative therapy survived for a median of only 4.3 months.

    Jobs is not reported to have tried the Gonzalez regimen, but he is known to have suscribed to alternative therapy. In a 2008 story, Fortune reported that Jobs initially tried to treat his tumor with diet instead of surgery, soon after he was diagnosed in 2004. In January, Fortune reported that he had also made a hush-hush trip to Switzerland in 2009 for a radiation-based hormone treatment. The exact details aren’t clear, but the University Hospital of Basel in Switzerland is known for its special form of treatment for neuroendocrine cancer, which is not available in the U.S.

    Whether these treatments helped to extend Jobs’ life or improve the quality of his last days isn’t clear. But cancer experts expressed surprise that Jobs survived as long as he did, continuing to fight his disease. Other pancreatic cancer patients typically aren’t as fortunate. Another high-profile patient, actor Patrick Swayze, managed to live for 20 months after his diagnosis, taking advantage of chemotherapy treatments. But, overall, patients’ median survival is generally only five months.

    VIDEO: Steve Jobs’ Career at Apple (in Two Minutes)

    Jobs lost his battle with cancer at a time when researchers are constantly pushing the boundaries of treatments, particularly with antitumor agents that can home in on abnormally growing cells with increasing precision. In the end, his cancer proved too advanced to rein in with even the most innovative technologies.

    “Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being,” Tim Cook, Jobs’ successor at Apple, wrote to employees on Wednesday. “Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.”

    Alice Park is a writer at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @aliceparkny. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

    Remembering PanCAN Champion and Actress Charlotte Rae

    Rae with fellow survivors at PurpleStride Orange County 2016

    Charlotte Rae, an American TV actress, comedian, singer and Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) champion, has died. She was 92. No cause of death has been announced, but Rae publicly fought pancreatic cancer since 2009 and more recently, was diagnosed with bone cancer.

    Rae was known most notably for her portrayal of Edna Garrett (Mrs. Garrett) in the sitcoms “Different Strokes” and its spin-off, “The Facts of Life.” At PanCAN, she was a champion for the cause and served as an Influencer of Hope, an elite group of notables who lend their voice and unite with everyday heroes in the fight against pancreatic cancer.

    “Keep searching for a solution, explore clinical trials,” Rae told PanCAN in 2016 when asked what advice she gives other patients fighting the disease. “I’m extremely grateful to be here today and I’m sending out powerful prayers to all of you.”

    Rae talking to a fellow survivor at PurpleStride Orange County 2016

    Pancreatic cancer was personal to Rae even before her own diagnosis. She lost three relatives to the disease, including her mother, uncle and older sister. Her extensive family history with pancreatic cancer led her to be more vigilant about the symptoms and risk factors associated with the disease.

    Not only did Rae use her voice on behalf of the world’s toughest cancer, she attended local PurpleStride walks, championed for increased federal funding through PanCAN’s annual National Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., and referenced the organization in numerous media interviews.

    “We must speak out loud and clear: Federal funds must be invested to develop more effective treatments and to find a simple, affordable detection test,” Rae told fellow PanCAN Advocacy Day participants in a letter she penned in 2013. “This disease is so frightening because it cannot be detected early enough. Effective treatments and early detection tools could save thousands and thousands of lives.”

    Rae served as a Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) influencer of Hope

    On behalf of Rae and all patients like her, PanCAN will continue to work diligently to double survival and improve patient outcomes.

    The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is the only organization with a nationwide grassroots army, inspiring over one million people to take action in the fight to end pancreatic cancer. Want to use your voice for good? Learn more about volunteering.

    Dr. Gabe Mirkin

    Charlotte Rae was a stage, television and film actress and singer who, at age 52, became widely known and loved as Mrs. Edna Garrett in the TV shows “Diff’rent Strokes” and its spinoff “The Facts of Life” (1978-1987). As Mrs. Garrett, she was the cheerful, wise and strong housemother at a prestigious boarding school, where she always made the right decisions in dealing with issues facing teenage girls: dating, depression, weight control, alcohol and drugs. However, in real life, she was an alcoholic who suffered greatly from her affliction.

    At age 56, she received a pacemaker to control her heart rate. At age 83, because of a family history of pancreatic cancer, a research group evaluated her family and she was diagnosed with that cancer before she had any symptoms. Her mother, an uncle, and her elder sister all died from pancreatic cancer. Most people with pancreatic cancer die within two years of diagnosis, and only four percent survive for five years, but after surgery and six months of chemotherapy, she appeared to be cured. At age 89, she told her story in The Facts of My Life, an autobiography written with her son, Larry Strauss. At age 91 she was diagnosed with bone cancer and died from that disease at age 92.

    Charlotte Rae with her co-stars of The Facts of Life.

    Early Life and Career

    She was born Charlotte Rae Lubotsky on April 22, 1926, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Russian Jewish immigrants parents. Her father owned an automobile tire business and her mother was a childhood friend of Golda Meir, who became Prime Minister of Israel. In high school, Charlotte appeared on the radio and acted in a children’s theater. She studied at Northwestern University, where she met several other aspiring actors, singers and producers. At age 22, she moved to New York City, where she worked in small theaters and night clubs and at age 28, started appearing on television. At age 48 she moved to Los Angeles where, after working as a comedienne and bit-part actress, her big break occurred when she was cast in NBC’s sitcom, “Diff’rent Strokes.” She was so well received that the next year she was given a lead role in a spinoff that was created for her, “The Facts of Life”. After eight seasons, she felt that the show had run out of fresh ideas, so she quit and was replaced by a Cloris Leachman for the show’s final two seasons.

    A Tough Life

    Although she appeared on TV to be wise, happy and in complete control as the mother figure for teen-age girls, in her private life she was often miserable and out of control. In college, she started to drink heavily and continued to drink so much that she was diagnosed as an alcoholic. At age 25, she married composer John Strauss, who was also an alcoholic. In her forties, she joined Alcoholics Anonymous, and did not drink alcohol for the last fifty years of her life.

    After 25 years of marriage and two children, her husband told her that he was really bisexual and they divorced when she was 60. When she met her husband’s new partner, she said, “At least he’s a nice Jewish boy.” After her divorce, she had many relationships but never remarried. Her ex-husband eventually gave up drinking after he was told that he had cirrhosis of his liver caused by his drinking. They remained friends, and she cared for him after he was eventually crippled by more than 30 years of Parkinson’s disease. He died at age 90. Their older son was autistic, suffered from seizures and died in 1999. Their younger son, Larry, became a successful high school teacher and co-wrote his mother’s autobiography.

    Pancreatic Cancer

    Because of Charlotte Rae’s family history of pancreatic cancer, she was fortunate to receive a very early diagnosis as part of a research program. However, most pancreatic cancers do not run in families, with fewer than 10 percent of cases associated with specific gene changes. These genetic factors include:

    • hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome

    • familial atypical multiple mole melanoma

    • familial pancreatitis

    • Lynch syndrome

    • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (colon polyps)

    • Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome

    • Neurofibromatosis, type 1

    • Multiple endocrine neoplasia, type I (MEN1)

    Non-genetic lifestyle factors associated with increased risk for pancreatic cancer include tobacco use, alcohol use, excess weight (particularly excess belly fat), workplace exposure to certain chemicals such as dry cleaning or metal working, diet low in fruits and vegetables, diet high in meat, and lack of exercise. Other risk factors include African-American heritage, diabetes, chronic pancreatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, and infection of the stomach with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). Risk is higher in men than women, and increases with aging.

    Dr. Gabe Mirkin is a Villager. Learn more at www.drmirkin.com

    Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Advocate, Champion Charlotte Rae Dies

    “In the pancreatic cancer community, Charlotte was a cherished champion for the cause,” said Pamela Acosta Marquardt, PanCAN Founder. “She served as an Influencer of Hope, an elite group of notables who lend their voice and unite with everyday heroes in the fight against pancreatic cancer, and Charlotte was always willing to use her voice to raise awareness and visibility.”

    Pancreatic cancer was personal to Rae even before her own diagnosis. She lost three relatives to the disease, including her mother, uncle and older sister. Her extensive family history with pancreatic cancer led her to be more vigilant about the symptoms and risk factors associated with pancreatic cancer.

    “Keep searching for a solution, explore clinical trials,” Rae told PanCAN in 2016 when asked what advice she gives other patients fighting the disease. “I’m extremely grateful to be here today and I’m sending out powerful prayers to all of you.”

    Not only did Rae use her voice on behalf of the world’s toughest cancer, she attended local PurpleStride walks, championed for increased federal funding through PanCAN’s annual National Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., and referenced the organization in numerous media interviews.

    “We must speak out loud and clear: Federal funds must be invested to develop more effective treatments and to find a simple, affordable detection test,” Rae told fellow PanCAN Advocacy Day participants in a letter she penned in 2013. “This disease is so frightening because it cannot be detected early enough. Effective treatments and early detection tools could save thousands and thousands of lives.”

    On behalf of Rae and all patients like her, PanCAN will continue to work diligently to double survival and improve patient outcomes.

    Learn more about the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network by visiting pancan.org. Follow the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

    About the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
    The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) is dedicated to fighting the world’s toughest cancer. In our urgent mission to save lives, we attack pancreatic cancer on all fronts: research, clinical initiatives, patient services and advocacy. Our effort is amplified by a nationwide network of grassroots support. We are determined to improve patient outcomes today and to double survival by 2020.

    Media Contact:
    Cara Martinez
    Associate Director, Communications
    Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
    Direct: 310-706-3357 | E-mail: [email protected]

    SOURCE Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

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    http://www.pancan.org

    IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

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    2) Matt Yohe / Wikimedia Commons

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    Los Angeles Times: “From the Archives: Joan Crawford, Film Star for 50 Years, Dies at 69.”

    Last Word on Pro Football: “Great Raiders From History: Gene Upshaw.”

    NPR: “Sally Ride, First American Woman In Space, Is Dead,” “Sharon Jones Is The 21st Century’s Godmother Of Soul,” “Luciano Pavarotti Succumbs to Cancer at 71,” “Charlotte Rae, Who Played Mrs. Garrett On ’80s Sitcom ‘Facts Of Life,’ Dies At 92.”

    Pancreatic Cancer Action: “Sir John Hurt passes away from pancreatic cancer aged 77.”

    Pancreatic Cancer Action Network: “Patrick Swayze’s Legacy Lives on to Fight Pancreatic Cancer,” “Two Great Women, Two Great Movies,” “About Purplestride,” “Alex Trebek Shares His Pancreatic Cancer Journey.”

    Pancreatic Cancer UK: “Alan Rickman: Celebrating a life.”

    People: “Classic Car.”

    Pro Football Hall of Fame: “Gene Upshaw.”

    Rolling Stone: “Sharon Jones Fights On: ‘I Have Cancer; Cancer Don’t Have Me.’ ”

    The Guardian: “Patrick Swayze obituary,” “Sally Ride obituary,” “Alan Rickman obituary,” “Sharon Jones obituary,” “Luciano Pavarotti,” “Sir John Hurt obituary,” “John Hurt ‘more than optimistic’ as he reveals pancreatic cancer diagnosis.”

    The Independent: “Alan Rickman: British actor died from ‘pancreatic cancer.’ ”

    The Telegraph: “Sir John Hurt, legendary British actor who starred in Alien, Harry Potter and Midnight Express, dies aged 77.”

    USA Today: “Aretha Franklin, ‘Queen of Soul’ who transformed American music, dies at 76.”

    Variety: “Cancer silences jazz great Gillespie at 75.”

    The Washington Post: “Jazz Trumpet Titan Dizzy Gillespie Dies,” “Aretha Franklin, music’s ‘Queen of Soul,’ dies at 76.”

    Celebrities with CancerThe Pancreatic Cancer Kind

    Pancreatic cancer is no respecter of persons. There are dozens of celebrities with cancer, just as there are dozens more ordinary, everyday, hard-working men and women bearing the same burden. It affects the wealthy, the famous, as well as the poor and common folk.

    Over the years a number of well-known celebrities have been diagnosed with the disease. Unfortunately most of them have succombed despite having the money and position to receive the best treatment. Celebrities with cancer find that it makes no difference to the cancer if your face is plastered across the airwaves or if you are a brilliant Nobel Prize winner. Pancreatic cancer is ruthless, color blind and non-discriminatory.

    If we know anything, we do know that Pancreatic Cancer research is severely limited by a major lack of funding and awareness. Many other types of cancer are making marked improvement in survival rates, but pancreatic cancer life expectancy statistics have improved little over the past 20 years. I would wish that grim prognosis on no one, famous or not.

    However, if there is anything good to come from a celebrity with pancreatic cancer, it is that they help to put a spotlight on this relentless disease. Each time a celebrity is diagnosed with this cancer, it raises the public’s awareness, and hopefully more funding for research and ultimately a cure. Unfortunately, as Randy Pausch once noted, there aren’t many celebrity spokespeople for the disease because so few survive long enough to take on that role. It is up to us, the family and friends to step up and make sure their deaths are not in vain.

    Pancreatic cancer will affect close to 40,000 people this year. That’s not a lot in the whole scheme of cancers. Breast cancer will touch closer to 280,000 lives and lung cancer will be diagnosed in over 200,000 people. But if you are one of the 40,000 diagnosed with pancreatic cancer than that is one too many. As I have researched this cancer, I have been amazed at just how many well-known, famous individuals have also suffered with this disease. Why haven’t we heard more about it?!

    The following is simply a list I have compiled of the people, the fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, the celebrities with cancer, specifically pancreatic cancer. Some you may be familiar with, some not. But they all have a story. They are not so different from you and I. Their journey with pancreatic cancer is full of the same fear, anger, hope and struggle as yours…

    Celebrities with Pancreatic Cancer

    Count Basie, jazz pianist and composer
    Jack Benny, comedian
    Harry Blackstone, Jr., magician
    Johannes Brahms, composer, died of either liver or pancreatic cancer
    Joan Crawford, actress
    Richard Crenna, actor
    Aretha Franklin, singer-songwriter
    Ben Gazzara, actor
    Dizzy Gillespie, jazz musician
    Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice}
    Charles Grimes, Olympic Gold medalist
    Fred Gwynne, actor
    Marilyn Horne, opera star
    Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder
    Bill Kitchen, cartoonist
    Michael Landon, actor
    Henry Mancini, composer
    Laurie Bartram McCauley, actress
    Margaret Mead, anthropologist
    Luciano Pavarotti, opera singer
    Randy Pausch, computer scientist, professor
    Dith Pran, “Killing Fields” Survivor
    Donna Reed, actress
    Alan Rickman, actor
    Sally Ride, astronaut
    Ralph Steinman, Nobel Prize Winner in medicine
    Patrick Swayze, actor
    Gene Upshaw, football Hall of Fame Guard
    Irving Wallace, author

    Return to the Journey from Celebrities with Cancer
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