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Kaukauna woman ‘Wages Hope’ for late father ahead of World Pancreatic Cancer Day

World Pancreatic Caner Day is Thursday, November 18.
Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 1:50 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 17, 2021 at 10:34 PM CST
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KAUKAUNA, Wis. (WBAY) - A Kaukauna woman will spend her birthday raising awareness for pancreatic cancer after losing her father to the disease two years ago.

World Pancreatic Cancer Day falls on Tammy Heiting’s birthday, which is on Thursday, November 18.

“Birthdays were huge to my dad and I feel like this is not a coincidence that it happens to land on my birthday this year,” said Heiting.

Heiting lost her dad to pancreatic cancer just 18 days after being diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

“It was two years ago and my dad wasn’t feeling really good… he just started to feel sick with a stomach ache and nausea and a loss of appetite. You just think to yourself, ‘oh, the stomach flu’ but it didn’t go away and he was losing more weight so he went into the doctor and they diagnosed him,” said Heiting.

According to the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer has one of the lowest 5-year-survival rates of any cancer due to its aggressiveness and early detection difficulty.

“Unfortunately, it (survival rate) went from 5 percent up to 10 percent, so we are gaining strides, but it’s taken us six years to get to this point,” said Heiting.

Because her dad’s diagnoses and death were so quick, she said she didn’t have a chance to reach out for support. She wants it to be different for others who may go through similar situations.

“I didn’t have much chance when he was alive to do anything to reach out for those PANCAN (Pancreatic Cancer Action Network) services. But after he passed away, I decided to do something with my grief… so I found ways that we could raise money and raise awareness for pancreatic cancer

Heiting wants the public to know about the symptoms, to know about the importance of early detection, and to know why purple will be more apparent on Thursday.

“My house is lit with purple and decorated with purple right now. We’re just asking businesses and people if they want to raise awareness, put some purple lights up, or put a sign up,” said Heiting. “For me, this is how I cope with my grief. This is how I work through it by spreading the word because I could just sit down and cry, but I figure this is a nice way to wage hope.”

According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, here are some of the symptoms associated with pancreatic cancer: pain usually in the abdomen or back, weight loss, jaundice with or without itching, loss of appetite, nausea, change in stool, pancreatitis, and recent-onset diabetes.

For more information about pancreatic cancer and resources, head to www.pancan.org.

“Early detection is key for this cancer,” said Heiting.

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