According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer death right in the United States. And, if that's not scary enough, it's estimated that pancreatic cancer will be the second cause of cancer deaths by the time that 2020 rolls in. The American Cancer Society reports that "56,770 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer" and that "about 45,750 people will die" of it.

Today, Thursday, November 21 is World Pancreatic Cancer Day, a day very dear to my heart. On World Pancreatic Cancer Day, people around the world are asked to wear something purple to bring to light this disease.

On June 18, 2012, I lost a man who meant the world to me. Leo Valliere was a truly amazing man. He was intelligent, humble, and brave. Leo walked the walk but didn't talk the talk because there wasn't a need to fill people's ears with lip service.  Leo served his country proudly in the “Big Red Division” in the United States Army for over 10 years as an Army platoon and company commander. After his time in the Army, Leo continued his service through four terms in the Vermont Legislature.

Traci Taylor

We found out that Leo was fighting pancreatic cancer in the fall of 2011, and in February of 2012 I took a week off from work and spent that week with Leo in Vermont.  We chatted and napped.  Laughed and cried.  I think we both knew that it would be one of the last times we’d have together and so we soaked up every minute of our time. By June 18th, my Leo was gone.

In 2014, I learned my friend Terri Mitchell of Greene, a vibrant, loving and incredible single mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer by November 26, 2017, Terri was gone. Leo was in his 70's. Terri was much younger. Both lost their lives to this horrific cancer.

Traci Taylor

According to the Cancer Centers of America, symptoms of pancreatic cancer sometimes don't show up until the disease is advanced. When the symptoms do appear, they tend to include: upper abdominal pain that may radiate to the back, yellowing of the skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice), loss of appetite, weight loss, depression, and blood clots

There are also some risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer, which include smoking, being very overweight and having a family history of pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis.

If you or someone you love has any of these risk factors or symptoms, please don't wait to talk to a doctor. The longer the disease lives inside of you, the smaller your chances are of survival. When Leo was first sick, he was misdiagnosed and we can't help but wonder if his outcome would have been different if caught sooner. If you so much as suspect that you might have pancreatic cancer, please be proactive and don't settle on just any diagnosis. Go with your gut. It could save your life.

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