The American Cancer Society reports that 94 percent of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will die within five years. The average life expectancy is five to seven months, making this form of cancer the one with the lowest survival rate of all cancers tracked.
For one Brownsburg family, that hit home especially hard this year when Shelly Parpart died in April at the age of 38 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer only a year prior.
Amy Parpart, Shelly’s sister-in-law, said she knew that something had to be done. With the loss of Shelly and the relative under-exposure of this deadly cancer, the Parpart family started raising money for the cause and participated in the Purple Stride Indianapolis 2013 walk rcently, one that saw unprecedented success.
The Parparts brought 18 people to the event and raised $4,100, part of the record 1,300 participants and $120,000 raised at the event, a 30 percent increase from 2012.
“After she died, I felt like I really needed to do something,” Amy said. “(Shelly) was a very giving person, and I felt very odd just writing a check. I felt like I needed to get involved. She honestly was the kindest and most empathetic person I have ever met. She and her husband were the first people in my husband's family I met in 2001 when I was dating my husband, and they made me feel so welcome.”
Like Amy, Shelly was a nurse. The two forged a friendship when Amy started dating her now husband, Roy. She said the lives Shelly touched were many, and that her loss was a staggering blow to the family.
At the outset, the goal was to raise $1,000, but Amy said they soon realized that was a low ceiling, as friends from all over started donating to the cause.
“Pancreatic cancer accounts for about 3 percent of total cancer diagnoses per year in the United States,” Amy said. “The mortality rate is incredibly high. The problem is that most people don’t develop symptoms for the cancer until it’s too late, and the symptoms are often really vague.”