Student helps fight against pancreatic cancer


Courtesy of Susan Watts


Senior Susan Watts shared her story at PurpleStride, a five-kilometer walk/run to support pancreatic cancer research she helped plan.

PurpleStride is held 50-60 times per year across the country by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, hosted for the third time this year in Charlotte at 7 a.m. on Sept. 6 at Central Piedmont Community College. The name comes from the cause’s awareness color, purple. Mark Weber, Charlotte media chair for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, says the organization wants to use this event “as a technique to eventually end pancreatic cancer.” The funding raised at this event will support research.

Watts helped with registration at the event and was given the opportunity to share her survival story with attendees. “They’re honoring survivors and having them come up on stage and tell their story,” said Watts. The goal for this event was to raise $175,000 and eventually, for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, to increase the number of survivors of this disease.

While it is common knowledge that cancer can be a devastating disease, many are not aware that pancreatic cancer one of the deadliest. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth deadliest cancer in existence, on its way to becoming the second by 2020. Watts, a psychology major from Monroe, N.C., learned of this disease in a difficult way.

“I had a tumor on my pancreas last year,” says Watts. The tumor ended up not being cancerous, but the scare was enough to put her into action. “I stumbled across the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. It’s a daily killer. I was super lucky that I found it early. Most people find out they have cancer when it’s too late, and the survival rate is super low.”

How low? According to Weber, the chance of surviving the next five years if diagnosed is 6 percent.

“Because it is not well understood, people of all ages are becoming increasingly affected by pancreatic cancer,” said Weber. “We’re angry at this disease and we’re trying to make efforts to double the survival rate. A 12 percent survival rate is shockingly low, but that would be a huge step forward if we can make that happen.”

Weber says if a student wants to join the fight against pancreatic cancer, all they have to do is let the organization know on their Facebook page. This volunteer opportunity can even accommodate a college student’s busy schedule.

“One of the cool things about our organization is that if a student can only do one hour a month, we take that,” says Weber. “If someone wants to get much more involved like Susan, we can take that too. We have a wide variety of volunteer activities. I think what I would want students to know is that there is volunteer opportunities for anything. There is something for everyone, regardless of what their interest is, regardless of how much time they have.”

For more information on the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and how you can help, go to,, or visit the Charlotte affiliate’s Facebook page at

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Published by students of Queens University of Charlotte, 1900 Selwyn Avenue, Charlotte, N.C. 28274.