Cancer and Obama Inaugurals: Community Service Helps

Four years ago today, the first Inauguration of President Obama, my husband, Tim, began radiation therapy in an attempt to shrink back a deadly tumor in his pancreas discovered a few weeks earlier. His doctors hoped the treatment would work well enough to make him a candidate for the Whipple procedure, life-saving surgery for pancreatic cancer patients. It was his only chance at more years of life. He was 59 years old and otherwise very fit and healthy.

We lived in Reston, Virginia and had to travel that day to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Nearly two million people were expected to be on the Mall in Washington, D.C., to witness the historic event – the inauguration of the nation’s first African-American President. While we were very excited about the new President and hopeful about his leadership at a time of peril for the U.S. economy, we were terrified we would be hopelessly stuck in beltway traffic trying to get to Johns Hopkins and life-saving treatment for Tim. Fortunately, we had wonderful friends in the Baltimore area who offered us a room in their home. We traveled to Baltimore on January 19th, spent the night with our friends and were on time the next morning for Tim’s first radiation treatment.

The radiation worked to reduce the large tumor in the head of the pancreas, but chemotherapy had failed to prevent hundreds of small, granular-like tumors from developing and spreading throughout Tim’s abdomen. He was not a candidate for the Whipple procedure. He died on May 3, 2009.

One year later in June of 2010, Tim’s daughter, Susan, and I decided to do something to help pancreatic patients and their loved ones. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network was sponsoring the first Purple Stride in Washington, D.C. to raise money to advance research, support patients and create hope.  They were also holding an annual advocacy day to encourage Congress to pass the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act which would require the National Cancer Institute to develop a strategic plan to improve treatment, early detection, and prevention of pancreatic cancer, and several other persistently deadly cancers. The five year survival rate for pancreatic cancer it is just six percent.

Susan and I raised money from family and friends and walked with several thousand others joined together in grief, but especially in hope, to fight the disease that took their loved ones away. We also joined in the advocacy effort and worked for the next two and a half years to get the pancreatic cancer bill passed.

Purple Stride, DC 2010
Susan and me with Tim’s picture pinned to our backs

On January 3, 2013, President Obama signed the bill into law. In a Congress that had been marked by bitter partisan conflict, this bill garnered 234 co-sponsors in the House and 58 in the Senate.  Both political parties were heavily represented among the supporters. Susan and I are extremely gratified with this positive outcome that we had a small part in achieving. It helps ease our grief to know that we have helped to prevent this, and other deadly cancers, from robbing other families of their loved ones too soon.

President Obama and his wife Michele have asked Americans to set aside one day during this inaugural season to participate in community service of their choosing. I urge those who are suffering from cancer, and loss due to cancer, to join in this endeavor. It will lift your spirits. I promise.

9 thoughts on “Cancer and Obama Inaugurals: Community Service Helps

  1. Dear Marcia, I really enjoy your Naked Mountain Blog.Who would not? I am sorry about Tim but inspired about yours and Susan’s activism. Cancer and Obama Inaugurals: Community Service Helps. I will perform some community service in Tim’s honor. Thanks, Mike

  2. Marcia, Lovely blog. Sorry to hear about your husband. A friend of my was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago. She got together a group of friends to do a breast cancer walk in Toronto with her when she finished her treatment. We raised a ton of money, but just as importantly it gave her and us something positive to focus on – similar to your experience with the Purple Stride. Keep up the good work on your blog. I’ll stop by again:)

    • Thank you for your comment. I am glad, and not surprised, that walking to raise funds to fight breast cancer was helpful to your friend, and to all who love and support her. I will be writing again about cancer recovery, but I also write about nature which is another way to lift one’s spirits! Marcia

  3. Hello, Marcia, my first visit to your Naked Mountain Blog must have been when your new site had made its debut – it is a beautiful site and interesting on both counts: nature and Purple Stride. I’m sorry that your husband isn’t with you and his daughter today and admire your spirits to do something in his memory. I’m glad that you shared the Pancreatic Cancer Action Net worklink and plan to track along and donate. With some family losses to cancer, it wasn’t until I was pondering your blog that it dawned on me that in a small way, I’m a survivor of a melanoma that, thankfully, was excised in situ with no further care needed. My daughter, Lou, recognized the ABCDE visual symptoms, thanks to the American Cancer Society id education. Your thoughts have prompted me to refresh my thankfulness. I look forward to your next posting, Marcia! Nicky

  4. My mother-in-law has cancer and going through
    treatments. She is getting really sick from minor colds.
    What home remedies can help boost her weakened immune system and cancer treatments?

    • Dear Brian — This would depend a bit on what kind of cancer your mother-in-law has which you didn’t mention. My own approach to my cancer (late-stage ovarian) and my husband’s (pancreatic) was to do my best to eat alot of organic, or locally grown, fruits and vegetables, plain no sugar Greek yogurt, whole grains, etc. and also to try and exercise even if all I could do was walk for 10 minutes. You could try a probiotic, but they are not regulated and it is hard to know if you are really ingesting live bacteria, enzymes, etc. For my husband, I had to puree these items, keep the fat very low, and he needed dietary supplements. He exercised as much as he could before he weakened totally. You might try reading the book, Anti-Cancer by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD. He is a brain cancer survivor and a research psychiatrist who writes about how to battle cancer using your body’s own best defenses in conjunction with conventional medicine. My best wishes to you and your family on this difficult journey. Marcia

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