Actor Patrick Swayze, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Tennessee Supreme Court Judge A. A. Birch, and 15-year-old Trey Erwin.
All were amazing people who died from pancreatic cancer. It's called the silent killer because the symptoms don't show up for many until the cancer has progressed too far or the symptoms are just everyday ailments.
By 2015, pancreatic cancer will be the second highest cancer killer in America. But when the cancer is caught early enough, the prognosis can be very different, but you have to be ready for a fight.
November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month in Tennessee. That announcement was made Monday in Nashville with everyone wearing pancreatic cancer purple bands. Standing next to Gov. Bill Haslam was legislator and history maker, State Rep. Lois DeBerry from Memphis, for the first time taking her fight against pancreatic cancer public.
Sunday night in Memphis, we talked one on one.
She's still fighting after surgery and eight rounds of chemotherapy at seven hours a day and an another two days a week of additional meds by pump. The symptoms for pancreatic cancer are very vague. Remember, former Speaker DeBerry thought she had a cold until another lawmaker spoke up. For others it's just a stomach ache.
Here is a website that has all the symptoms and treatments and risk factors.
Arguably, the first African American Tennessee speaker pro tempore, and longest serving House lawmaker is a power broker. Rep. DeBerry was handpicked to nominate fellow Tennessean, former Vice President Al Gore, at the 2000 Democratic National Convention. That speech, fired up the democratic base and left an esteemed indelible mark on those who track where leaders stand in history.
Nine years after a career high speech at the DNC, a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer at Vanderbilt Hospital left the powerful speaker without words.
"Oh gosh, it was shocking. I could not believe cancer, pancreatic cancer," she said. "I was in a state of shock. Then I asked the doctor, I said how long do I have to live? He said if we go through the Whimple Procedure, that gives you five more years. I said five more years of my life? At that point I made in my mind that I was going to fight it and fight it to the end. And 2012, still fighting."
This is what Lois said about finding out she had pancreatic cancer: "My colleague noticed my eyes having jaundice in it. Told me I look sick. I ignored him. Next day he came back and told me (I) looked sicker. Made me some appointments. I thought, if (the) man think that much maybe I need to go to the doctor."
That colleague, another lawmaker, may have saved her life. She was in the early stages of the deadly cancer, when it is most treatable.
"Most people that I've talked to that have been diagnosed with cancer has had the stomach cramps. When you go to a doctor you need to demand that your doctor find out why you have stomach cramps."
"Was there a moment after you were diagnosed when you said, 'Lois, keep that to yourself, don't tell anybody?'," I said
"I did and when it got out, you know, I thought about it," Rep. DeBerry said. "Pancreatic cancer is so fatal, I'm left here for a reason. I got to tell the story. I want people to see when they look at me, knowing that I have pancreatic cancer that there is hope. Never give up! I think you got to bring awareness to this dreadful disease."
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