Four years ago Uncle Ed died. "Not Ed," I heard Mom choke. "Anyone but Ed." I head those phrases often in the few weeks before he passed away. I heard them often because Uncle Ed was truly a wonderful man, a devoted father, husband, brother, and oncologist.
I remember vividly Christmas at his rather large home. Every year was a huge party complete with all five Miller siblings, dozens of cousins, beautiful decorations, and Santa Claus. Yes, every year Santa came to entertain the kids. Festive is an understatement for these gatherings - I still feel warm inside when I think about them. There were a lot of memories in that home, the third floor playroom complete with real arcade games, the family golden retriever, Abby, and the secret toy room my brother and I could never actually find.
As we got older the celebrations got smaller and the memories got bigger. I learned about late night White Castle runs, even on Christmas Eve. I observed the length of time it takes two brothers to make risotto. I sipped the best wines I've probably ever had before I could even appreciate them. I watched my Dad's face light up every time Uncle Ed smiled. I endured blasting Beatles and Frank Sinatra late at night. I learned that there was never actually a secret toy room in the old house. I saw a dedicated doctor wake up early on Christmas morning to visit his patients at the hospital.
In August of 2006 I called my Dad. I began talking about something unimportant and as I heard the tone of his voice I stopped. "Is everything okay?" He told me the news. Uncle Ed had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. "It doesn't look good," he told me.
Pancreatic cancer is the 4th leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Only 6% of pancreatic cancer patients survive more than five years. This is the LOWEST survival rate for all cancers. This year 43,140 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and 36,800 will pass away from the disease. There are no early detection methods, and currently there is NO CURE.
Uncle Ed passed away in early September 2006 after complications from an unsuccessful surgery, just weeks after we found out he was sick.
Pancreatic cancer is often called the "silent killer" as when the first symptoms appear it is often too late. Even an oncologist like my uncle didn't beat this cancer because he had no symptoms until he became jaundiced on his retirement cruise. Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all cancers. Although pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death, only 2% of the National Cancer Institute's $5 billion annual budget is spent on researching the disease.
Please visit www.pancan.org for further information, or to join the fight against this horrific disease. Together, we can advance research and create hope.