Pancreatic Cancer Month

Surviving family continues fight against pancreatic cancer

2013-11-22T22:00:00Z 2013-11-23T03:02:08Z Surviving family continues fight against pancreatic cancerJohn Burbridge, (219) 933-3371

MERRILLVILLE | The research Megan Fisch has done on pancreatic cancer was painful.

"It was like being devastated all over again," Megan said of when she looked up the cancer via the Internet after her mother, Lisa Fisch, was diagnosed with the disease.

"We couldn't believe the poor survival rate," Megan said. "We've heard about all these improvements in treatments for other forms of cancer, but this didn't look like it was going to end well."

After a courageous 14-month fight, Lisa died in September. The Merrillville woman was 52.

About five months before, Lisa, Megan, Lisa's husband Mike, her son Michael and nearly 30 other members of "Love for Lisa" participated in the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network's PurpleStride Chicago 5K run/walk held at Chicago's Lincoln Park.

"It took us about an hour as (Lisa) had to stop and rest several times," Megan said. "We managed to raise $4,000."

Lisa's husband also walked the course despite bad knees.

"I figured if Lisa could do it, I could," Mike said.

And they're doing it again even without their namesake team leader.

"We hope to raise even more money next time," Megan said. "In her memory, we're now more motivated to increase awareness.

"Like I'm wearing purple this month. The lights on top of Willis Tower and the John Hancock Building are purple making the Chicago skyline purple ... at night they make Niagara Falls purple with lights. But a lot of people don't know what that means, or even know that November is Pancreatic Cancer Month."

About 45,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2013. Of those, more than 38,000 will die within the first year of diagnosis. The five-year survival rate is about 6 percent.

"That's mainly because when it's diagnosed, it's usually too late," Mike said. "If you can detect it early, they may be able to operate and you may have a chance. But by the time we found out with Lisa, the cancer had already metastasized."

Pancreatic cancer doesn't get the attention and funding of other cancers like breast cancer, whose "Go Pink" campaign tends to remain in fashion beyond its designated month (October).

"You don't have the high rate of success or uplifting survivor stories with pancreatic cancer," Mike said. "It's something people would much rather ignore and not deal with, and just hope they will never be faced with it."

There has been good news regarding the subject . Teenage prodigy Jack Andraka, who has been featured on television news magazine 60 Minutes and formally honored by president Barack Obama, devised what may be an effective early-detection system utilizing thin strips containing carbon nano-tubes laced with mesothelin-specific antibodies.

In theory, a pancreatic cancer-tainted blood droplet — extracted during a routine medical check-up — when placed on the strip will inhibit the nano-tubes' electrical charge and, thus, signal the disease's presence.

The Fisch family also hope their concerted efforts will lead to better days.

"There are some national organizations that people can refer to as a way for support and to learn more," Megan said, referring to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network as well as the Lustgarten Foundation, "but there needs to be a more done locally ... more awareness and support from the grassroots level."

Megan plans to start a nonprofit in the fight against pancreatic cancer.

"I know there are a lot of hoops I have to go through," she said, "but they just held a walk at Hidden Lake (in the fight against) Alzheimer's Disease. Why not do one for pancreatic cancer? That's what I hope to do in the near future."

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