Three years ago today, my world changed forever when I learned that my cherished mother, JoAnn Gunter, had stage 4 pancreatic cancer.  I didn’t even really understand what “stage 4” meant—though I would learn the harsh reality of that all too fast—but I was in utter shock that my mom, who was always regarded as a freak of nature for her youthfulness even at the age of 69, could have such a devastating disease.  I could not fathom that MY mother, the one who never drank or smoke, who exercised faithfully, who had none of the risk factors for this evil disease.   Even now, it still seems incomprehensible.  MY mother, the person who always had my back, my best friend, and my eternal source of wisdom even in the most difficult of times.   Within 10 months, mama was gone—nothing could be prepare me for the void her passing would leave.

I have not yet been able to write about the experience of what it is like to walk such a journey with someone you love more than anything, a roller coaster of fighting one of the deadliest cancers you can get.  For now, I will simply say it has taken me to some of the darkest hours of my entire life and that watching such suffering up close profoundly changes you and the way you see life forever.  Grief is still ever-present for me, but the strength of character and grit my mother instilled in me has kept me moving forward even on days I frankly didn’t want to go any further—and I know that is exactly what she would have done had our roles been reversed.  I try to keep my focus on continually learning from the experiences of the last few years and how I can turn those insights into positive action and energy–to do anything else would dishonor the sacrifices my mother made to give me the life I have and the preciousness of life.

wage hope

It seems fitting on this day to share that the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, an organization whose efforts are making difference in the war on pancreatic cancer, is nearing its year-end fundraising goal.   Pancreatic cancer has now surpassed breast cancer to become the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States.  I respectfully ask you to consider making a donation of any amount to this organization dedicated to finding methods of earlier diagnosis and more effective treatments for this disease that is one of the deadliest cancers with very low survival rates.  If you would like to make a contribution, please click here.  On behalf of my mother and all those who have been touched by this disease, I thank you for your gracious consideration.