More attention, please

Jennifer Tobin is a Sacramento nursing student.

Some cancers—such as breast, lung and colon— are constantly in the national spotlight, but little is reported about the lesser known cancers, like the one that I had never heard of until it personally affected my life.

Uncle Shawn, my dad’s identical-twin brother, lived in Sacramento with his wife and five kids. He coached Little League and participated in all types of sports and music events. When he was barely 47 years old, we were told that he had pancreatic cancer. This was in February of 2006.

Uncle Shawn passed away from complications from pancreatic cancer on May 7, 2006, just two weeks after he walked his eldest daughter down the aisle.

Now we are left missing a vital piece of our family: the uncle/brother/ father/coach who supported all of us. The couple months we were given to be with him once he received his diagnosis were not enough.

Pancreatic cancer doesn’t draw celebrity endorsements, nor is it a trendy cause to support. You might even call it the “underdog cancer.” It is under funded, under recognized and not well understood.

By the end of this year, more than 37,000 Americans will have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths. It is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in men ages 40-59. And yet, it only sees about 1.5 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s $4.8 billion budget.

Those of us who have been affected by this disease are incredulous that such an aggressive illness can receive such little funding and public attention. There are no pre-screening or early-detection tools, which is why 75 percent of the people with pancreatic cancer will die within 12 months of diagnosis.

November is National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Please raise your voice and build awareness in your neighborhood to this terrible disease. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is the only national organization creating a sense of hope and community in a comprehensive way through research, patient support, community outreach and advocacy for a cure. Visit, join the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Raise Your Voice campaign and get involved today.