Pancreatic Cancer Stories of Life and Hope

After hearing that someone you care about has pancreatic cancer, one of the first things you confront is the reality of statistics. But there are long-term survivors. They do exist – and often thrive. And their stories are important beacons of hope for others confronting this serious foe.

If you consider your journey a source of inspiration and are interested in sharing, please contact us at

In her book, There’s No Place Like Hope, “terminal” cancer survivor Vickie Girard observes, “I have often thought of cancer as the schoolyard bully … the mere thought of him can send people running. But all it takes to diminish his power is for a couple of people to stand up to him. That’s what a cancer success story does – it stares down the bully.”

Such is the long operating principle of Cancer Patients Alliance and the Pancreatica resource. The aim from the outset has been to shine a hopeful and informational light at this disease. It is also the motivation of the stories of inspiration page on this site. And, as the personal accounts here will attest, it is the meaningful goal for these long-term survivors too, as they transform their private challenges into social good.

Due to the self-selective nature of those who feel moved to tell personal stories and why, there are often recurring themes. Multi-generational families tell stories to bequeath history and values to their children. Founders of organizations tell them to transmit their original visions in hopes that those will live on. Military veterans do so because they finally have enough distance from their wars that they feel ready to speak about them. Patterns always emerge. Threads intertwine.

For this particular series, we wanted (primarily) to help people share the details of their exceptional medical journeys. We know what clinical factors make pancreatic cancer survival more likely: overall age and good health, early diagnosis, tumor location, eligibility for surgery, world-class hospitals, skilled doctors. Most (but not all) of our initial interviewees had many (but not all) of those things going for them. But so do many people who still aren’t so lucky. We wondered whether there were also other, non-medical situations or attributes that these survivors would turn out to have in common.

There were. And they’re not news bulletins. But they do leap off the page as you read these stories. Positivity. Indomitability. Spirituality. Appreciation of the little things. A craving for information. Continuing things they love doing. Not taking no for an answer. Strong, devoted and ever-present caregivers. Hope in the face of (what often seems) no hope. And humor, always humor. One survivor has had this magnet on his refrigerator since the very beginning: I plan to live forever. So far, so good.

And even now – when it seems that the hard part may be over, and the coast clear:

All have an impassioned, downright mission-driven determination to share their experience with people who are taking this journey after them. To continue helping others.

And – they share a certain thankfulness for the experience they’ve been through. As one wife and caregiver put it, “there was a special sweetness and richness about that time, as we were forced to focus only on each other for a change, and to talk and reflect about what really mattered.”


In many cultures, stories have been told out loud and handed down for centuries, from one generation to the next, in order to communicate and preserve the significant. In the telling of those stories, there is respect and honor accorded to those who speak. For those who listen, there is an implied stewardship… the responsibility to receive, embrace, respond, learn, and pass on what they’ve heard.

We hope you’ll feel that too, in these tales – whether you have your own connection to pancreatic cancer, or just want to be inspired and humbled – and reminded – about our daily problems. And about the triumph of the human spirit.

Alison Wiley is a close friend of Ralph and Mary Jo Edwards, who have their own stories of inspiration. She is also an oral historian who helped the initial survivors on the website tell their stories.

Dedicate your birthday to fight pancreatic cancer or simply set up a page to honor a loved one.