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Virtual PurpleStride Walk Aims To Raise Awareness About Pancreatic Cancer

PurpleStride Team.JPG
2019 PurpleStride volunteer team

The Broward-Palm Beach Pancreatic Cancer Action Network partnered with the Memorial Cancer Institute for the annual PurpleStride walk.

Joelle Hervis is the media chair and volunteer for the grassroots network, a group of local volunteers and medical professionals who promote awareness, raise funds, and support research for pancreatic cancer.

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Hervis said pancreatic cancer is the third-deadliest cancer in the nation and mentioned notable names that have recently died due to the disease, including Alex Trebek, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, and music icon Aretha Franklin.

And pancreatic cancer is disproportionately affecting Black communities.

"Black Americans have a 60 percent higher diagnosis incidence rate than any group," Hervis said. "And even though the cancer itself doesn’t discriminate, anyone can have this cancer, the reality is that within the black community, unfortunately, there is a lot of disparities in care and socioeconomic factors."

Hervis said some of the risk factors include diabetes, obesity, and diet. The PurpleStride walk, which has gone virtual due to the pandemic, also provides information to prevent families from being diagnosed at a late stage. She said late diagnosis of pancreatic cancer happens too often.

And in Hervis' case, the deadly disease hit close to home.

"Our family knew nothing about pancreatic cancer before my grandmother was diagnosed. And by the time we found out, she was in stage four cancer. And she died within months," Hervis said. "And that’s the reality for the majority of people who are diagnosed. And that’s simply unacceptable."

November marks National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. PurpleStride, Hervis said, normally features school bands greeting runners at a finish line, physical games for families, and other community-related activities. The pandemic shifted priorities.

Survivors, caregivers and supporters at the PurpleStride event are doing a virtual event on Nov. 15 , which include ceremonial videos and walkers sharing pictures of themselves striding in their communities.

And members of the local medical community supporting the cause include the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and PET Imaging Institute of South Florida.

Hervis said this event is meant to "make as much noise as possible."

"It's time to get this silent killer out of the dark and bring it to light," Hervis said.
"People need to know that this exists and we're doing everything we can to stop it."

To learn more about the virtual walk, go to purplestride.org.

2019 PurpleStride volunteers

Wilkine Brutus is a reporter and producer for WLRN and a guest faculty member at the Poynter Institute. The South Florida native produces stories on topics surrounding local news, culture, art, politics and current affairs.