Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death. Approximately 44,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer are expected in the United States this year and almost 38,000 deaths — nearly equally divided among men and women, according to the American Cancer Society.
Last week Wisconsin’s legislature approved a resolution (AJR-73) designating November as pancreatic cancer awareness month. “There’s no cure for pancreatic cancer and 75 percent of those who have it will die within a year of being diagnosed.” That’s Representative Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) on the Assembly floor, whose father-in-law died of the disease.
Pancreatic cancer often has a poor prognosis and spreads rapidly, even when diagnosed early. Cancer doesn’t discriminate, something Representative Amy Sue Vruwink (D-Milladore) knows all too well. “Five years ago I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer; she was diagnosed and she died four months later. But on my father’s side we had just lost my uncle three years ago who had pancreatic cancer.” Last year, Vruwink’s 52-year-old brother was diagnosed with the very same disease.
Neither fame, fortune, nor political affiliation makes anyone immune to the wrath of cancer. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs recently lost his battle with pancreatic cancer; Dirty Dancing star Patrick Swayze brought a lot of awareness to the cancer that took his life in September 2009.
Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) spoke kindly of her rival for the 31st district senate seat — Ed Thompson. The brother of former Governor Tommy Thompson passed away October 22, just a year after announcing his diagnosis. “He was a cheerleader for Tomah; he was loved by Tomah; he was a fierce competitor in both business and politics; and I think, Mr. President, that his independence and his forthrightness could strongly be used today in politics.”
It’s not known exactly what causes pancreatic cancer. Other high-profile people who have died from pancreatic cancer include actor Michael Landon and singer Luciano Pavarotti.
AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:58