June 20, 2008

a face

The big diseases have faces. The big organs have faces. Your heart, your kidney, your lungs, even your breasts -- they're the Big News body parts.

They have celebrity faces that get attention. And because they get attention, they get money. And because they get money, they attract talented young researchers who dedicate their lives beating the disease or figuring out the organ. And because they get talent, more people survive, get well, watch their kids grow up, are free from pain.

Pancreatic cancer is a disease without a face. That's because, as Randy Pausch says, no one lives long enough to become the face of that disease.

Randy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer almost 2 years ago. It is a rare for anyone with pancreatic cancer to live as long as Randy has. Most -- like my father -- die within six months. The five year survival rate is around 3 or 4 percent. Even 40 years after my father's death, the prognosis is the same. No other cancer has been as elusive or remained as aggressive over the decades.

I found Randy's story because reading Doc Searl's posts about his pancreatitis battle, and Suzi's blog about hers, reminded me of the pancreas' tricky stubborn ways. Doc and Suzi don't have pancreatic cancer, but they do have bum pancreases. As I read of their latest challenges, I searched around to see how things were progressing with that odd organ and came across Randy's blog, his Carnegie Mellon "last lecture," which has become a book, and his recent testimony before the Health and Human Services Subcommittee:

Please watch it, and give what you can to PANCAN or the Lustgarten Foundation.