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My work with PanCAN 💜

My family and I have been deeply involved with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) ever since my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015. 

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Why we volunteer

My mom is a pancreatic cancer survivor. A rare pancreatic cancer survivor since pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers there is (and at the time of her diagnosis, a 5% survival rate). Flash forward 7 years and she is still here, one of the very few lucky ones who survive 5 years past diagnosis––and I am eternally grateful for that. Thanks to the best doctors, a lot of good luck, and a tough-as-nails mom who somehow survived despite the odds (and a long horrible couple of years).


Because of her diagnosis and the impact it had on our family, our family gives back all we can to the PanCAN community. My mom is the Chair of the SF Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and I am the Marketing Communications Chair. We've assembled a mighty team of passionate volunteers and every year, we raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for pancreatic cancer research. Together, we are a group of friends, family, colleagues, and strangers that have come together as a team to spread awareness, raise money, put on events like PurpleStride.


And, thanks to my survivor mom – we wage hope.

Read a profile written about our family's volunteer work:
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Purple Stride

Every year we hold San Francisco's Purple Stride event to raise money for pancreatic cancer research and programs. To date, we've helped to raise over $850,000 and every year we come back for more. 

Our event last year saw hundreds of attendees including friends and families of pancreatic cancer patients, caregivers, and of course, survivors like my mom.

A family affair

My mom and sister both have the BRCA-2 genetic mutation, which means they have a massively increased risk of many cancers including breast, ovarian, and pancreatic cancer. In fact – my mom survived breast cancer twice before her pancreatic cancer diagnosis. My sister also survived breast cancer in her 30s and has become both an educator and an advocate for people with cancer.

Their experience, as well as the many other friends and family members experiencing cancer, inspired us to get involved and keep us involved. We feel so lucky to have our mom here and feel like it's our duty to pay it forward and help the community that helped us – however we can.


My mom's story 💜

Three-time cancer survivor, Sue Popik, is a force for good – she leads the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) of San Francisco and helps raise money and awareness for pancreatic cancer research.


Sue was a trailblazing lawyer before there were many female lawyers. She's a civil rights advocate. She's a fantastic chef (and a Jewish mom, which is a fabulous combination). She's the most popular person in her neighborhood because she cooks meals weekly for ~20 homes at no cost – just to make other people's lives better. She's the best grandmother to her grandkids, mom to me and my sister, and friend to many.

When she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015, it was the third time she'd been diagnosed with cancer (after surviving breast cancer twice before). We thought it was a death sentence because the odds were so terrible, but Sue somehow managed to survive. And because she survived, she spends her time giving back in many ways, but chairing the PanCAN SF Affiliate is certainly one of the most meaningful.

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On her 5-year "Pancan-niversary"

Here's the story I wrote about my mom at her 5-year anniversary of her pancreatic cancer diagnosis (a milestone that 90% of patients don't see)

5 years and 5 days ago: I was having lunch with my mom on a Friday afternoon and noticed her eyes were strangely yellow. Since she was already feeling otherwise “weird," and that was the final kick in the butt to get to the doctor.


5 years and 4 days ago: tests and scans and bloodwork to figure out what was causing the jaundice. 5 years and 2 days ago: more imaging, biopsies, and confirmations.​


5 years ago today: my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer – one of the deadliest cancers there is.


And 5 years ago today, the chance of surviving for five years past a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer was less than 5%. LESS THAN 5%.​That next week I remember being numb. Numb to the fact that my mom was going to die and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it. Numb to the people telling me I needed to accept that there was no “positive thinking” for pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is a death sentence, that’s that.


Well, guess what? As of today, it’s been FIVE FREAKING YEARS. My mom is still here. She is maybe better than she has ever been, and you’d never know based on looking at her that she’s a three-time cancer survivor. So much cancer, we lovingly call her "cancer-pants." She’s been cut and tucked from countless surgeries, had more pieces of her body removed than we can count, chemo’d, irradiated, broken, bruised, starved, dehydrated, and even knocked some teeth out in the process. It was ugly and horrible but SHE IS HERE. She beat the odds.​


When my mom was undergoing treatment, I'd occasionally request that my mom ask her oncologist how many pancreatic cancer patients he had that survived for five years and beat those awful odds. She wouldn't ask because she knew the answer would be grim. At her last appointment, she finally said "my daughter has been begging me to ask you..." and she asked him how many survivors he had.


His answer: "now I have one."​​

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