#046 – Pancreatic cancer is the 3rd leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States after lung and colon. Hear from Richard Pante and Kim Levesque about why they joined the fight against pancreatic cancer and how the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network supports patients and their loved ones.
Learn how Pancan supports patients and their loved ones
Hear about PurpleStride run/walk and PurpleLight memorial events
Find out how you can give back and support this cause
Richard Pante is a Community Relationship Manager for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. His role is to support all those fighting back against pancreatic cancer in New England. Richard lives in Frederick, Maryland, with his wife, Autumn, and son, Donovan. He has also joined the world of running over the pandemic and is addicted!
Kim Levesque is the Connecticut Affiliate Chair for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Her role is to lead, support, and raise awareness for participants in Connecticut. Kim’s husband and two kids actively join her fight to end pancreatic cancer and help others in their purple family community.
Welcome to Episode 46. In the last episode, I talked a lot about how running can benefit you, and at the same time others by supporting good causes. One of the good causes in particular, is the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. And I shared my connection with Pancan, as well as how pancreatic cancer directly affected my family. I’m excited to share that I brought back the Inspire Virtual Runs Podcast team for Pancan’s purplestride 2022 race. And I’m also excited and honored to share that I’ve been featured in one of Pancan stories for Black History Month. So what I’d like to do for this episode is replay the interview that I had with Rich Pante from Pancan, as well as Kim Levesque, from our local Pancan affiliates. And I’d love to share that with you so you can learn more about this deadly disease. There are resources that are available to help patients and their loved ones. And I’ll also put the link in the show notes so you can get involved and joining Inspire Virtual Runs Podcast for Purplestride 2022. Hope you enjoy. Here’s what you can look forward to on this episode of Inspire Virtual Runs Podcast.
Kim Levesque 1:24
We always say we’re kind of small, and but we are mighty. And everybody is there for the same common goal to fight for their loved ones. And to also keep making that goal of making a difference. Raising awareness and keep getting that survival rate up. Like Richard said, now it’s in double digits. And when I first started, it wasn’t so just being a part of that is something that I think is really great. And seeing all this stuff when we get new funding when we get to do stuff for advocacy and go to the capitol and get our words heard and let everybody know that you know, pancreatic cancer needs more attention because it is so deadly. And because there is no warning. That’s something that a lot of people don’t know until you hear the words pancreatic cancer because I was one of those people.
Welcome to Inspire Virtual Runs Podcast, whether you are new to running or seasoned. Get tips in the inspiration that you need to achieve your health and fitness goals. Now, here’s your host Richard Conner.
Richard Conner 2:26
Hi, everyone. Welcome to Inspire Virtual Runs Podcast. I am here with my friends Richard Ponting, and Kim Levesque from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, also known as pan can. Richard as a community relationship manager for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. His role is to support all those fighting back against pancreatic cancer in New England. Richard lives in Frederick, Maryland with his wife, autumn, and son Donovan. He has also joined the world of running over the pandemic and is addicted. Kim is the Connecticut affiliate chair for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Her role is to lead support and raise awareness for participants in Connecticut. Kim’s husband and two kids actively join her fight to end pancreatic cancer and help others in their purple family community. I am excited to have Richard and Kim here with us today. So welcome to the show.
Richard Pante 3:27
Hi, thank you so much, Richard,
Kim Levesque 3:29
thank you for having us.
Richard Conner 3:31
So let me kick things off by saying that, you know, pancreatic cancer is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. And just for our listeners, I lost my mother in law to pancreatic cancer a few years ago. And that is when my family found Pam can and it is such an awesome organization. And, you know, I said really provide a comfort to us during such a difficult time. So this is an important topic. You know, I think not only to me and for my family, but many families around the world. So I’m really excited to to kind of have this topic, you know, on the show and have Richard and Kim here. So, Richard, you know, I really like to start the conversation with you like what led you to paint him?
Richard Pante 4:18
Absolutely. For me, I actually started out in the general cancer space. I worked with the American Cancer Society for about three and a half years a much in the same way that I operate with Panchen now in the community engagement space and American Cancer Society is sort of an umbrella organization that really fights back against all cancers. So because of that, and because I was in community engagement, I met a lot of people with a lot of different stories survivors, their caregivers, you name it, and you know just how your brain Naturally works, I think is is you sort of build up i It’s almost to me like a, like a virtual Rolodex where you just the stories and the people that you come across certain ones just really, really stick with you. And over the course of like I said that three and a half years, I met people from all different walks that have been affected by all different types of cancers. You know, if I really virtually access that Rolodex, I started to realize that the stories that were just sticking with me the most were the stories for pancreatic cancer had a touch someone and I had the opportunity to, to join Pancan and and in trying to think about, you know, making a shift like that going from like a general sense to more of a specific nonprofit and community engagement space. I accessed that Rolodex. And I realized that there was just such a needed fight to go against pancreatic cancer, and a lot of work needed to be done a lot of courageous, amazing people that were fighting back. And I wanted to join that movement. And so that’s sort of the genesis that led me to pan can.
Richard Conner 6:21
That’s great. Thank you so much for sharing return. I mean, it’s, it’s awesome to have, you know, your career have a noble purpose. And you know, you’ve been in this space for some time. I appreciate you sharing that with us. And, you know, Kim, love to hear your story as well, like what led you here?
Kim Levesque 6:39
Yeah, so I actually got involved in 2015, which is when I lost my dad to pancreatic cancer, he got diagnosed at stage four, and it had already metastasized. So he was given a few weeks to live. And when he did pass, I was really angry at that time, because I wasn’t given any resources, I wasn’t feeling like I had any support. And then I found out through some friends about pan can because like, Richard, I used to do all the cancer, you know, walks and runs. And when I found out that there was one just for pancreatic cancer, I decided to do the walk and create a team. And I realized how comforting and how much of a family really everybody is at pan can and they really truly do support you and they come together for the same common goal. And I had promised my dad, before he passed that I would continue the fight for him. So that is what I have been doing for the last almost six years now. As as my roles have changed, but like I said, Now I’m affiliate chair, I feel that I have a greater possibility to reach more people and more individuals and really let them know that they’re not alone, and that we are advocating for them and that we do want change. And that I will not only continue for my father, but also all the other people that I’ve become part of my family and that we’ve lost over the years, and others that we have now started meeting because of this organization. So that is really where my headspace is, is I just promised that I will keep doing this until somebody else does not have to hear you have stage four cancer, and you’re going to have to die. And I just, I don’t think that’s acceptable. So that is why I work so hard to keep doing what we do.
Richard Conner 8:24
Thank you so much, Kim, and thank you for everything that you do. You know, I remember I remember you specifically I think you’re one of the first people we met at Penn can and I remember your story about your dad, which you know, again, you know, very sorry to hear you know about your dad. And again, I think it it helps all of us, right, just kind of connect with you. And we share different stories and just really appreciate, you know, you kind of sharing that opening yourself up with all of us. I think that gave us a lot of comfort during during that time. And over the years. So so thank you. You know, back to Richard. I’d like to give our listeners some background who may not be familiar with pin kin and like what pin can does, can you tell us a little bit about like the organization’s mission and the work that that you do there specifically?
Richard Pante 9:17
Yeah, absolutely. I’d be I’d be happy to share, as you heard, you know, me allude to and also quite frankly, you know, you in Chem as well. Pancreatic cancer is a very, very, very deadly and tough situation. Just unimaginable for those that haven’t experienced it. And so, you know, a couple of quick stats, pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer related deaths in the United States. And and the five year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is currently at 10%. So what Kim was alluding to with, you know, so much more work that needed to be done and where things are at. It’s just currently unacceptable. I can’t underline and highlight that enough, there’s a lot of work to be done in what pan can drives to be as the go to organization for pancreatic cancer. And we take a holistic approach, we we try to come at it from all different angles to really help and assist pancreatic cancer patients and their loved ones. And this can be found in multiple ways. Like I said, we have a holistic approach. So we focus a lot on, on research, to, to build ways for early detection to sort of find that breakthrough that will that will push the boundaries of survivorship and quality of life while you’re dealing with and that of course, leads to patient services. Basically, we want to get to a place when we say we’re going to you know, we want to be the go to organization for pancreatic cancer, that someone that hears those words, you have pancreatic cancer, they can call us and get help on every step of their journey. And and it can be something seemingly huge, all the way to something that maybe you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t think about, right? So something that is huge that we’re working on something like no your tumor where we actually take a piece of a person’s tumor, and do some tests on it to figure out what is the best way of treatment for that specific person, because everyone’s tumor is different, and makeup is different. And I will say a little asterisk, I am not the sciency guy, I am a community engagement person. So I certainly would encourage people to to look up these aspects of what we’re working on, go to our website, Pan cam.org. We help pancreatic cancer patients, in those ways, all the way all the way to, like I said something that you may not think about, like dietary guidelines, I just got diagnosed, what should I eat, what should I not eat, like, we really try to cover the gambit from A to Z. And to sort of build off that in the local community, we want to spread the word with all of the services that we offer, so that people can take advantage of it, of course, all of it is free. And we we want to make sure that every single person is affected by this knows, knows about all the all the resources that we have, and the ways they can take advantage. And so that that comes about in different ways in the community. And that sort of leads to the local volunteer affiliates we call them. And the idea is to really use that as a way to spread awareness for personal outreach, the fundraising to fund our programs. So as you can see, there’s a million different bunny trails, I could go down here, but I would just keep coming back to we want to be the go to organization for pancreatic cancer. And so the so the impetus is on us, then our goal is to cover everything from patient services to spreading the mission mission to providing ways that people can get involved locally raising funds, you name it. And so that’s sort of our robust outlook on who we are and what we do.
Richard Conner 13:13
All right, that’s very interesting. And it sounds like you’re well organized, it sounds like you have a lot of great services and programs and resources to to help either those who have been diagnosed or you know, their loved ones to kind of get more informed about, you know, pancreatic cancer, and what can they do so, so that’s great. And we’ll include this information in the show notes, to to point them back to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, so they can find you. So you talked a little bit about the affiliates or the local communities. And I think that takes us to Kim, who is the chair for the Connecticut affiliate. So you know, maybe we’ll switch gears a little bit and learn about like, what happens at a local level. So Can Can you tell us a little bit about your affiliate kind of how you’re structured, and a little bit about the programs that you offer there? Yeah,
Kim Levesque 14:07
sure. So, like Richard said, Because Pancan is so big, and you know, across the states, it makes sense to have local affiliates so we can reach out to those and really focus on participants in Connecticut. So like I said, I lead the affiliate here for Connecticut, I have an amazing team that is full of volunteers that have different roles as well like the purplestride, chair and volunteer chair and media chair. So everybody kind of plays a part and piecing together all of the puzzle pieces essentially, in order to make Connecticut be successful. But essentially our biggest mission is getting everybody together, getting our mission heard letting people know that they’re not alone and that there are not only local, but there are also national resources that are provided for them. And just we come to We have meetings, we do certain events like purplestride, like Richard said, is one of our biggest fundraising ones. And that’s really our main goal to walk to end pancreatic cancer. So primarily most of our affiliate year is comprised of planning purplestride, and making sure that everybody’s getting a great experience, everybody’s getting the awareness, everybody knows about it. Everybody knows why we’re here what our common goal is. And then we also do purple light, which is more of a memorial and remembrance ceremony for those that are fighting, but we really just want people to come together, let them know that they’re not alone, that we have the support groups, we do tips and tricks, meetings and stuff to encourage them to fundraise and get more participants to join their teams through purplestride. But really, it’s just a matter of reaching out to people reaching out to hospitals, reaching out to organizations, reaching out to anybody, survivors, caregivers, that we find that sign up in Connecticut to let them know that we’re here. And like Richard had said, you know, that pan can offers these resources. So it’s really we’re kind of the connector between Connecticut participants, and what pan can offers for those that are having to deal with pancreatic cancer. So that’s kind of my job. And like I said, it has changed in the last few years, I started off as purple light and then went to purplestride. And then and then switched to affiliate. So it’s kind of the top of the machine now. But we we are, we always say we’re kind of small and full, we are mighty, and everybody is there for the same common goal to fight for their loved ones. And to also keep making that goal of making a difference, raising awareness and keep getting that survival rate up. Like Richard said, now it’s in double digits. And when I first started, it wasn’t. So just being a part of that is something that I think is really great. And seeing all this stuff when we get new funding when we get to do stuff for advocacy and go to the capitol and get our words heard and let everybody know that, you know, pancreatic cancer needs more attention, because it is so deadly. And because there is no warning. That’s something that a lot of people don’t know until you hear the words pancreatic cancer, because I was one of those people. So that’s another reason why I think all of us on the affiliate work so hard to make sure that everybody is getting that message before it’s too late.
Richard Conner 17:26
All right, well, it sounds like you have some really great programs locally. And I love the idea that you’re getting the community involved. It’s not simply a national organization, that is that is trying to organize, you know, these fundraisers, it’s really more so at a local level. So you can have these types of events. I mean, obviously not not much as in person these days, but if they’re, they’re virtual events, or pre or post pandemic in person. And I love these programs that you have, you know what we’re going to get to purplestride In a moment, but purplestride purple light is also a great event that I that my family has personally attended in the past. And like you said, kind of those tips and tricks that you share with the community. So that this is this is great. And and you’re right, you know, how can you spread not only awareness to the local community, but how can you do more on the industry side to help increase the survival rate. So I know there’s a lot of clinical aspect of what the the national organization does is and is involved in. So I think that’s wonderful. So let’s come back to the the programs that you offer. And you know, we’ll make this connection with Inspire Virtual Runs Podcast, is purplestride. So purplestride, you know, is is your annual fundraiser, and it’s in it’s a running event. And it’s something that I love to participate in, you know, that I’ve done over the last few years. And I love that too to be kind of showcase here on this episode is the great work that that you guys are doing with purplestride. So so let’s just talk a little bit about that, like pre pandemic, what it purplestride look like and then kind of what are you doing, you know, this year kind of given the current environment?
Richard Pante 19:06
Yeah, so purplestride is our signature fundraising event. As you you’ve been you’ve been involved in Kim has helped help lead it for a few years now. We gather once a year, and it’s really an opportunity for all of us to to make our statement in the fight back raising awareness, fundraising, we have a run, as you said, and of course, you know, for being in this pandemic world, you know, it is virtual, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network had to make the decision that all of our events nationwide would have to go there. But that doesn’t mean that that we’re not hard at work doing something virtual and so each community is doing their own thing. And of course that includes Connecticut, and we’re really excited about that. And so, So Kim, I don’t know if you want to share some more specific stuff with with Connecticut.
Kim Levesque 19:56
Yeah, sure. So let me take you back a little bit though. So Because I know Richard, you had said that you have joined us at purplestride. So let me just paint a little picture for the listeners of what used to be before, before this poor pandemic hit. But purplestride for us in Connecticut was really one of our biggest events. And it was a time that we all came together not only just the affiliate, but all our participants we would have anywhere from 1200 people plus all wearing a sea of purple, all doing this fabulous run, we had guest speakers, we had music, there was food, there was fun, and everybody, even if there was crying, it was still like just a magical day of feeling like you really accomplished something, and that you’re all there for a common goal. And it’s just one of the most uplifting runs and events I’ve been a part of not only because like Richard said that I you know, also happen to run it. But I just feel that it’s just so empowering when you have everybody coming together to really make this cause something that is greater. So like he said, unfortunately, the pandemic has hit. So last year was virtual, and this year is virtual. But we are still trying to make sure that we get our Connecticut participants to feel still like they are part of our community. So we are still doing on our facebook group page. We’re encouraging them to share their stories, upload videos, tell us who they’re walking for who they’re who they support, who they’re striving, who they’re remembering, we have a virtual memory wall, that they can also post pictures and stuff too. So they can feel like they’re a part and everybody can see all the family members what they look like this year, how much has changed in a year, our survivors are still spotlighted, they still get to be able to same thing, turn in a video, turn in something, share something be one of the speakers at our event or in our video. So that way, we’re still encouraging them. And we’re honoring them and letting them know that this is why we keep doing this is so that there’s more people on the stage because that is probably one of my favorite moments when we do do purplestride is when we play that song, fight song and all of them come up. And every year we’ve gotten more people and it’s just so touching, and everybody claps and cheers and you just if there’s just nothing like it. So we still try to do that now virtually to let them know that this is why we fight. We fight for them and their families. And we are going to hopefully have our selfie station so we can start getting more people involved with that. So we’re going to be trying to do some fun things to get people geared up and some special socials, and maybe a team rally where our team is working really hard. My purple striped chair, Amy is fabulous at that. And she’s really trying to get this year’s virtual aspect a little bit bigger and better than last year because it was a big change. And people are so used to being all together that it’s really hard to be a part right now. So we really want them to virtually feel like we are still together.
Richard Pante 23:04
And I would just add really quick, I can’t emphasize enough what Kim just said about the feel and like the spirit behind it. There really is that teamwork. Like we’re in this together, like just so uplifting. And it just so it just that brings a cohesion. And it’s so exciting. I Richard, I don’t know if if I know there’s a lot of people that come to this event, but I know that you saw Kim and her tutu up on the stage, bringing that celebration, I’ll tell you, I don’t know if I if we came across each other on that day, but I also was wearing a tutu and having a blast and a half pinballing around the area meeting people. And so there’s just that really just jubilant just we’re here to be together and to and to fight back together. And I it’s just so unique and special. So I just wanted to add that in because Kim Kim certainly brings it and I tried to do that too.
Richard Conner 24:02
Yeah, that that’s awesome. Yeah, you know, I remember just the experience and the feeling of being there. And, and the feeling of, you know, on your side, your perspective, teamwork on my site was like, felt like community, all of us coming together for for a cause. And it’s just really a spectacular event. And even though it was virtual last year, and you know, I know some folks who say, well, that’s not the same, but I was still out there. Right. I was still out there running and, and supporting you guys and Richard, I know we’re both on Strava. And we’re following each other. So I love the elements that that you guys have pulled together to still kind of have that community feel even though we’re apart and it’s virtual.
Richard Pante 24:46
Absolutely. That’s something we really are. I think it’s doable. I think maybe the first assumption and I don’t blame people the first assumption would be like, Oh, you’re going virtual like you were it’s not going to have the same feel and I think Yeah, perhaps it’s a different challenge. But I think there are ways that you can still build that community, build that cohesion, build that that same spirit. And that’s, and that’s, we were able to come up with some ways to do that last year. And we’re looking to continue that on this year and even come up with more ideas on it. So it’s something we’re still really excited about.
Richard Conner 25:19
Awesome, awesome. Well, I’m looking forward to it. And I’m happy to share this with the Inspire Virtual Runs Podcast, I’d love for them everybody to get involved as well. So we’ll be talking about this over the next couple of months, leading up to the event, which, you know, for the Connecticut chapter affiliate, I believe it’s in June. So you know, we’ll have links in the show notes, so we can give everyone the dates depending on where they are, they could see the local event, depending on where they are. So, you know, as we kind of wrap up, you know, I’d love to hear from you. Maybe, you know, maybe we’ll start with you, Richard. Like, is there any, anything you’d like to share with the community, anything to to inspire them to participate in Pancan and support, you know, the work that that you guys are doing?
Richard Pante 26:06
Absolutely. Well, as we just talked about, there are a lot of inherent challenges to sort of doing the fighting back in this virtual world to getting involved. But one thing that we’re trying to keep in mind, that that I would share is, well, no two things really, the first thing is, well, pancreatic cancer is not taking a break, be just because it’s a pandemic. It’s still happening. And so I know that has sort of been a rallying cry for us to just sort of keep the fight going, despite all the obstacles that are in our way. But on the encouragement piece, what I would also say is, you can get involved in so many different ways, even if you aren’t limited to, you know, in your home, or your block, or wherever you live, we have we had fundraisers centered around purple pancakes. We had fundraisers centered around online auctions, or even you know, doing a virtual run, as Richard mentioned earlier, and that’s obviously part of our event, like there are so many ways that you can fight back, and you can get involved and you can make a difference. Even in this reality that we are currently living in. We try to stay creative, we try to stay inspiring, and we try to make that difference. And you you are able to make that difference in so many different ways. So, so get creative and have fun with it. And it’s it’s still a blast.
Richard Conner 27:38
Awesome. Awesome. Thank you, Richard. Kim, same question for you. So what are you what would be your kind of parting words here as we kind of wrap up for our listeners?
Kim Levesque 27:48
Yeah, I mean, we as the affiliate are always looking for more help, thankfully, over this time, that has encouraged a lot of people to reach out and see how they can be part of it, which is great. We’re always looking for people to help join our team. And I know like I said that this year is virtual. But still we have so much stuff behind the scenes that we get through to do these events. And really reach out outreach is a huge thing that we’re really working on. So that way we can reach out to the people that are on our lists saying you know that they’ve been affected by pancreatic cancer. And also the biggest thing is just if you can just get involved or spread the word, share events, if you see our events or you know, you share a car page, share it because maybe somebody else if it’s not you being affected, maybe somebody else in your family is affected. I can’t tell you how many events that we’ve gone to that we’ve been out there with a table or something and somebody walked by and they said oh my gosh, I didn’t even know you guys existed. It’s just really getting that awareness out there especially for Connecticut so people can realize that there are ways to fight back here and in Connecticut and also nationally but that there’s also resources for them. I would have loved to have been able to find those resources before so like I said I’m super happy that Pancan has come so far in just the last few years since I’ve joined and being able to watch that as amazing but it’s just you’re so overwhelmed when you hear those words pancreatic cancer that I just want to know that when they hear those words that there is an avenue and there is an outlet. So I really encourage people to come and like you said if you want to get your running shoes on join us virtually on June 19 which is our walk here and in Connecticut or just do it anytime you are there’s really no limits to win you can do it and just you know rock your purple and if you have to to have some fun with it because that’s what we do the the amount matching running shoes everything is purple in our in our households now that we’ve been created cancer but just just to know that you’re not alone and that those words you know, they are powerful, but there’s so much more that we can do to help with that.
Richard Conner 29:59
Richard, Kim, thank you so much. I’m enjoying this conversation so much. I love the great work that that you guys are doing and what’s being done at Pancan. And really looking forward to Purplestride 2021 coming up here in the summer. So, you know, thanks again, I’m so grateful that you two were able to come on the show, and really just kind of looking forward to these events.
Kim Levesque 30:23
Thank you so much for having us and letting us have this opportunity to spotlight this organization and what we’re doing here in Connecticut, and thank you so much for being a part of it. I’m so happy that you are part of our purple family now.
Richard Pante 30:37
Absolutely. And for using Yeah, using your platform, to spread the mission and just letting people know what’s out there. I really appreciate it, Richard, thank you.
Richard Conner 30:48
Awesome, awesome. Thank you both again, and have a great day, you too. Same. I like to take the opportunity again to thank Richard and cam for coming on the show to share your stories as well as the great work that’s being done with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network for both patients and their families. I hope you learned a lot from this episode, including that pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer related death in the United States. And I also hope that this inspires you to get involved and support the Inspire Virtual Runs team in Purplestride 2022. Just go to pain can.org and click on Purplestride. You can search for inspire virtual runs. And from there either join the team or donate. So with that, just want to say thank you again for listening to this episode. Thank you for supporting inspire virtual runs. And with that, have a great day.
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