Woman deals with possibility of pancreatic cancer after disease claims family members

Cancer has devastated one valley woman's family.

It seems almost everyone has a relative or a close friend whose life has been claimed by cancer.

Imagine cancer has taken six of your family members, and even one close friend.

It happened to one valley woman, whose family was forever been changed by pancreatic cancer.

"It literally will touch everybody throughout their life whether they know it or not," said Valerie Waddoups.

Pancreatic cancer has done more than just touch Valerie Waddoups' family.

The Gilbert artist has a genetic time bomb inside her, something she discovered only after her grandmother's death seven years ago.

"My first initial experience with it is when my grandmother came down with it," said Waddoups.

Her grandmother was suddenly hospitalized with stage four pancreatic cancer.

Two months later, she was dead.

"It was hard. One of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I know it will face it again, but, yeah, very difficult," said Waddoups.

Then Waddoups started asking questions about her family history and it seemed her grandmother wasn't the first family member to succumb.
"Great grandfather, great uncles, cousins and my grandmother, all from the same side of the family, and last year one of my friends," said Waddoups.

All of them died from pancreatic cancer.

Waddoups worries she carries the same gene, but tries to be careful about what she eats and drinks because everyone in her family killed by pancreatic cancer was a heavy alcoholic drinker or smoker.

"I'm hoping that's enough to prevent that from happening," said Waddoups.

"Up until four years ago, there was very limited treatment options for advanced pancreatic cancer," said Dr. Erkut Borazanci.

Borazanci is an oncologist at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center in Scottsdale where they undergo clinical trials for pancreatic cancer.

"We have several different clinical trials, particularly early phase where we are looking for new treatments that haven't been given before," said Borazanci.

Like most cancers, early detection is the key.

The problem with pancreatic cancer is that it kills so fast.

"Before pancreas cancer only carried a less than six month survival, and now we have pushed that closer to a year and advanced the stage 4 setting," said Borazanci.

But to improve on those numbers, doctors say a much larger research effort is needed.

"Research in cancer is so vital, that's why such tremendous strides have been made in breast cancer and we need that research for pancreas cancer," said Borazanci.

"It scares me to death," said Waddoups.

For now, Waddoups can only hope for the best, get regular checkups and push for more cancer research.

"There's a one mile, two mile and the 5k walk run. Bring your dogs, your kids, family and friends, whatever, said Waddoups.

A fundraising walk and a 5k run for pancreatic cancer research will be held March 8 in Tempe.

Waddoups says it's up to the surviving members of her family and others who have been touched by the disease to bring attention to it because once pancreatic cancer strikes, there's usually too little time left.

"I'm sure we all have the gene, it's just a matter of triggering it with something," said Waddoups.

Valley of the Sun Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk


Cancer patients who want to know more about clinical trials at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center can call 480-323-1339 or email an inquiry to clinicaltrials@shc.org
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