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Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

‘Shine a Light’ On The World’s Toughest Cancer

How Kiwis Can Help Make A Difference This Pancreatic Awareness Month

Pancreatic cancer has the lowest five-year survival rate of all major cancers (only 12%) and, tragically, the number of Kiwis being diagnosed is increasing. Because symptoms are often vague, and too many Kiwis don’t know how to reduce their risk, the race is on to secure vital funds for research, so that one day we have fewer ‘forgotten patients’ suffering from pancreatic cancer.

This November the Gut Cancer Foundation (GCF), a voice for all cancers of the digestive system, wants to “Shine A Light” on this often-forgotten cancer as part of World Pancreatic Cancer Month.
New Zealanders can show their support throughout the month by signing up to the Big Purple Dinner. GCF is asking Kiwis to host a ‘purple dinner’ with their friends and whanau throughout November. Hosts can choose what it looks like – dress all-purple, cook purple food, have purple table decorations, have a purple picnic, or anything else that says ‘purple’ and use their dinner to raise vital funds for research and awareness.

To celebrate and mark World Pancreatic Cancer Day on 18th November, landmarks across Auckland, Blenheim, Christchurch, Dunedin, New Plymouth, Rotorua, Upper Hutt and Wellington will light up purple in one of the country’s largest ever co-ordinated lighting campaigns.

On board to share her message and encourage others to take action is Nyree Smith, the feisty woman currently battling pancreatic cancer. First diagnosed in 2017, Ms Smith experienced first-hand how difficult it can be to detect and diagnose this form of cancer. She is defying the odds and is now on a mission to help GCF raise awareness and funds to help reduce the alarming statistics around pancreatic cancer, which has just a 12% five-year survival rate. Ms Smith says, “If there is one thing I hope others can learn from my experience, it is to get yourself checked when you have persistent aches and stomach issues. Listen to your body and don’t ignore the signs.”

Spurred on by her own journey, Nyree and a group of inspirational pancreatic cancer advocates will further advance the mission through a gala event, which has had to be postponed to March 2022 due to lockdown – tickets are still available for this event which is a major fundraising initiative. The PanCan Gala will have entertainment from Nathan Haines, and include both live and silent auctions with donated art, designer memorabilia and other collectibles.

The Gala has received widespread support including major sponsorship from SkyCity Entertainment and Forsyth Barr. Managing Director of Forsyth Barr, Neil Paviour-Smith said “Our support of the PanCan Gala is personal. In June, we lost our great friend and former chairman Sir Eion Edgar to this brutal disease. Sir Eion left a legacy of generously supporting causes, and our contribution to the gala is made in his memory”.

People can sign up to host their own purple dinner and buy tickets for the PanCan Gala – it all helps GCF combat the rising occurrence and toll of pancreatic cancer.

Official pancreatic cancer ambassador for the Gut Cancer Foundation and founder of the Pancreatic Cancer Aotearoa/New Zealand (PCANZ) support page, Briony O’Farrell says this year’s Big Purple Dinner and the gala are fun but important ways to help raise awareness about this serious and often forgotten cancer.

“Since losing my father to the disease in 2019, I’ve become really passionate about doing everything I can to help others recognise the symptoms, risks and things they can do for prevention. I encourage every Kiwi to get involved this November to help us raise awareness of this deadly cancer, and if you or someone you know is struggling with the disease, please know there is support for you.“

Liam Willis, Executive Officer at GCF, says, “More than 630 people in New Zealand are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year, and worryingly, it is occurring more often, with rates rising 10% to 15% in recent years. It has the lowest survival rate among all major cancers, and by 2025 it is expected to become the fourth most common cause of cancer deaths in New Zealand. We are working hard to ‘shine a light’ on this horrible disease and asking New Zealanders to help us raise funds for vital research so we can help improve these stats and save lives”.