Dwight Corbin was 64 years old when he went to the hospital for a gall bladder removal.
During the procedure, his doctor found a blockage, performed a biopsy, and a week later, Corbin learned the results — pancreatic cancer.
“I thought it was a death sentence,” said Corbin, now 71.
For many people, it is. But because his doctor detected it early, Corbin had a fighting chance.
“He said, ‘you have two options: the operation, and hopefully it will be successful’ — and it was — ‘or there’s palliative care. There’s nothing else,’” said Corbin.
He’s now been living cancer-free for five years and considers himself one of the lucky ones. Only eight per cent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.
“It’s a vague disease. Some of the symptoms include mid-back pain, upper abdominal pain — you might not think anything of that,” said Kate Elliott, the community engagement director for Craig’s Cause Pancreatic Cancer Society.
“We’re not seeing the patients reaching the doctors soon enough. We’re not seeing the doctors flagging pancreatic cancer soon enough. Patients are being told it’s something else, or just to go home and take an antacid or something, and they’re not getting sent for blood tests or abdominal ultrasounds, and we need these things to be happening.”
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Elliott says awareness is key, which is what Craig’s Cause is hoping to raise at the 13th annual Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Bike Tour/Walk/Run this Saturday at Porters Lake Provincial Park.
“We cannot continue to have the high fatality rates. It is the only cancer in Canada with fatality rates that are so high. That’s unacceptable, so awareness will bring the funds, which will fund the research and bring hope.”
Along with raising funds, Elliott says the event is an opportunity to unite those who have been effected by the disease.
“Sometimes a pancreatic cancer diagnosis can feel very isolating. You may not have known anybody that had a pancreatic cancer diagnosis before and then potentially you lose your loved one very fast — very traumatic,” Elliott said.
“So coming to an event like this, where you meet others that have possibly been on a similar journey, it can be cathartic and healing.”
Corbin says that was the case for him.
“You always think you’re the only one until you talk to other people and you realize it’s a large group,” Corbin said, “and to help each other, the support is very important.”
“It [the event] not only helped me emotionally, but physically.”
He’ll be cycling in the event Saturday, marking his sixth year taking part.
“I just want to provide people with a sense of hope,” he said.
“The more people we can make aware, the better.”