Kandy Kelley, the coroner of Pickens County, S.C. will be the featured speaker at the Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day rally, 5 p.m., Nov. 15, at the downtown Gazebo.
Kelley took on the challenge of raising funds for Pancreatic Cancer Action Network after her brother, Michael Carpenter, succumbed to the disease on Sept. 26, 2012. Carpenter, a healthy, active 48-year-old, died two months after being diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.
“We have a family history of cancer, but he was the first to have pancreatic cancer,” Kelley said. Her brother declined treatment but, at the stage his cancer was found, treatment options were limited.
Kelley hopes research will find ways to diagnose the disease earlier, when chances of a cure are better.
“We need to figure out what the early symptoms are,” she said. To that end, she organized a fundraiser in Pickens County — the first of many planned for the future, she says.
Kelley took a bold move to dramatize the cause.
“I woke up one morning and told my husband I was going to shave my head,” she said. Her red locks came off on Sept. 28, around the first anniversary of her brother’s death.
“We had two months to prepare, and raised $6,000.”
Statistics on the incidence of pancreatic cancer add urgency to the cause. Kelley said the incidence is on the rise. By 2020, this disease is expected to be second only to lung cancer as a major killer.
“No one knows why,” she said, hence the need to raise funds for research, awareness and support.
Though her focus now is on pancreatic cancer, this is not the first time Kelley has been involved in cancer causes. In 2010, she shaved her head to raise money for the Pickens Relay for Life.
Kelley is in her fifth year as Pickens County coroner, an elected office. Previously, she served eight years as deputy coroner and worked as a surgical technologist and medical assistant before that.
Organizers of the Nov. 15 event hope to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer in Macon County. Patients, survivors and family members are invited to attend.
Supporters are encouraged to wear purple ribbons during N o v e m b e r, which is designated as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.
The organizers, part of a group called “Cousins for a Cure,” are also raising funds for pancreatic research being conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center. They have been inspired by the personal fight being waged against this devastating cancer by one of their cousins, Diane Ramsey Forsyth, who is honorary chairperson of the Macon County campaign.
Forsyth is a patient of Dr. David Ryan, chief of hematology/oncology at MGH. Donations (earmarked “pancreatic cancer”) may be sent to MGH Cancer Center Development Office, c/o Andy Kitaff, 165 Cambridge St., Suite 600, Boston, MA 02114.
You can find additional information on a website the “Cousins” set up: www.grititude.com.
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is a national organization dedicated to creating hope in a comprehensive way through research, patient support, community outreach and advocacy for a cure. For more information, see www.pancan.org.