Monday, November 25, 2013

November Blessings

I have had an amazing stretch for the past few weeks.
I stepped into November, Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, by marking the milestone of 5 years since my diagnosis on Halloween, 2008. Given that the 5-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is a paltry 6%, I feel incredibly blessed. Thank you God!
Next up was my 47th birthday. A time for celebration anytime but especially so with the full appreciation of what a gift each and every day is – much less the completion of another 365 day cycle.
The very next day I was able to run the NYC Marathon. It was a terrific celebration of my 5-year survival with my hometown city of New York. Running it with my old friend Michael was a special treat and my time of 4:09 was 15 minutes better than my last time. This dog is getting younger!
The next Sunday was the big NJ Purple Stride Walk/Run for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Leading up to that there was an article in the local paper (included below), a couple of radio interviews and an NBC-TV news spot. All of which culminated in my speaking as a survivor to nearly 2,000 people who were at the event.
November has been a reaffirmation of how unbelievably blessed I am. With all of that attention, I felt incredibly loved and supported.
When I thought about it, I decided that what was most wonderful was how very special I felt. You know how there are some people that offer you such considerate attention and appreciation that every encounter is a pick-me-up pleasure? I was feeling a lot of that.
What better expression of love could there be than making someone feel uniquely and unconditionally special? I want to be that walking thanksgiving affirmation for each one of God’s children. May it be so.

Here the article from the Home News Tribune on Nov 3rd. It is a really good article even if not all of it came out just right.
HIGHLAND PARK — In mid-October five years ago, Franco Juricic was in training for the New York City Marathon. On the surface, everything seemed to be going well, but Juricic thought something wasn’t right.
“My diet was good, everything was good, but I was very in tune with my body,” said Juricic, who was 42 then. “I noticed my urine was dark. That was weird. I thought maybe I was overdoing the running. But I went to the doctor.”
Juricic’s physician did seven to 10 days worth of tests, ruling out one thing after another until Juricic realized that what was left was not good.
“I did an Internet search,” the borough resident said. “Pancreatic cancer came up. Sure enough I had a tumor blocking my bile ducts.”
Juricic faced a different kind of marathon that year — one to save his life. After the diagnosis on Halloween and his 43rd birthday in early November, Juricic underwent a Whipple procedure on Dec. 1, 2008.
The Whipple procedure, or a pancreaticoduodenectomy, is a major operation involving the pancreas, duodenum and other organs. Most commonly, it involves the removal of a segment of the stomach, the first and second portions of the duodenum, the head of the pancreas, the common bile duct and the gallbladder.
“It is a very invasive procedure, but my wife and I agreed that we will do whatever we have to do,” Juricic said. “My twins were just 2½ years old. I was lucky. It was caught early enough that it hadn’t spread and the tumor was at the head of the pancreas, which is the best place for it to be for the surgery.”
A year after his diagnosis, Juricic ran the New York City Marathon.
“I had my purple shirt on that had a sign that said ‘Happy Birthday to me’ on one side and ‘Pancreatic Cancer Survivor’ on the other,’ ” he said. “People were cheering me on and wishing me well the whole day. Runners would pat me on the shoulder or my back. I was running in tears. It was an amazing moment.”
Now reaching his five-year mark as a pancreatic cancer survivor, Juricic is taking his milestone on the road once again. He is among the tens of thousands of participants in today’s marathon.
(Page 2 of 4)

Story gets better
Years ago when Juricic ran his first marathon, he thought it would be a lark and something to tell his grandchildren. Now, the story for future generations is even better. During today’s marathon, he again will don his purple “Pancreatic Cancer Survivor” shirt and as his 48th birthday was the day before, his “Happy Birthday” sign also is in tow.
“2009 was going to be my last marathon, but I’ve been applying in secret and got in this year,” said Juricic, whose will be running in his sixth marathon. “It’s a big time commitment, and I kept thinking ‘Do I have it in me?’ But, then I thought to do it every five years for ... forever. That could be my goal.”
“I run because I did before. I run now because, against all odds, I still can,” he added. “This marathon is a celebration of that blessing.”
Most who have pancreatic cancer never see a fifth anniversary. The survival rate is only 6 percent to reach five years or more, said Todd Cohen, 36, of Edison.
The media representative and co-founder of the Northern New Jersey affiliate of the Pancreatic Center Action Network, Cohen knows all too well the statistics of pancreatic cancer. His father, Richard Cohen, died at age 59 in 2002 after a one-year battle with the disease.
“My father’s story is very much the same as many others,” Cohen said. “He had some back pain, abdominal pain. He was relatively healthy. He went for a regular checkup. Then he was diagnosed and I was telling him we would beat this. He was an anatomy and physiology professor. He knew. It was so devastating to see.”
The statistics also include Juricic’s father, Bruno Juricic, who after a diagnosis just after Father’s Day 2012, died seven weeks later in August at age 76.
“While I had the best scenario for the disease,” Juricic said, “he had the worst. And unfortunately, that’s the more typical.”
Juricic said this run will be different than the last. His father, who Juricic said was his “biggest fan and supporter” will not be there as he was in 2009. Juricic’s wife, Jacquelyn, and two children, Ana and Noah, 7, plan to trek from preselected spots in Brooklyn and Manhattan to the finish line in Central Park.
(Page 3 of 4)

“My dad was always at those spots,” he said. “I know he totally will be there.”
Raising awareness
Juricic’s celebratory 26.2 miles comes one week after the NNJ PANCAN’s PurpleLight ceremony on Oct. 27 in Edison and one week before the annual PurpleStride fundraiser on Nov. 10 at the Mack Cali Business Campus in Parsippany. Juricic participates in those events as well.
“We had a very good turnout at the PurpleLight ceremony,” said Juricic, who is registration coordinator for PurpleStride. “For me, I love to see all the volunteers and people that make it happen. I get to catch up on everyone’s stories. There are survivors there and, it is always good to see them. It is very affirming and hopeful. On the flip side, we read the names of those who passed away. It is a way for all of us to come together for a very nice remembrance. I am there for me and also for my dad. We share our sadness but also move that sadness into something else — something that can improve people’s lives.”
While pancreatic cancer was never something Cohen or Juricic would wish for themselves or those they love, they said their involvement has become a blessing.
“It gave me purpose and perspective on life,” Juricic said. “It has become one of the best things to ever happen to me. I wake up every day — 365 days a year — and I feel most blessed. Before my feet touch the ground, before I splash water on my face, I think ‘I get to be alive.’ I am thankful for every day.”
“It’s a whole different life. I knew I had to do something,” Cohen said. “We are part of a fraternity we never wanted to be part of. But, it is all for a good purpose.”
Juricic said his thankfulness for his own life is anchored by what goes on “in the bigger picture of pancreatic cancer.”
“I think to myself ‘six out of 10 people like you don’t get to be here,’ ” he said. “‘You get to be here.’ This five-year mark is what I have been going for. If I do the marathon every five years, that would be a super way to celebrate. I’m surviving. I am lucky. People with pancreatic cancer who did not survive, they didn’t do anything different. For whatever reason, I am alive.”
(Page 4 of 4)

Juricic reflected that he may be the only runner in today’s race who has gone the distance with pancreatic cancer.
“There are 35,000 people running, but when you pair it with surviving cancer, then surviving pancreatic cancer for five years, the Venn diagram shows there is a fair bet, it could be just a couple of people,” he said. “Maybe I’m the only.”
As Juricic runs, he feels it is good to be out there. He hopes his survival serves as hope to others connected to cancer.
“I know that my situation does make for a good story for others,” he said. “It’s not just about surviving, but thriving no matter where they are at.”
For Juricic, after three years of no ill effects, he has had recent bouts of pancreatitis and a surgery may be needed in the future to take care of stones in the pancreatic duct. But, he remains positive about the impact of the pancreatitis. Followup CAT scans for the cancer are now scheduled further and further apart. First they were every three months, then six months and soon, he hopes, they will be annually.
“That is scary for me,” Juricic said. “Most people have a reoccurrence of cancer in the first year. Now, I am officially five years. Five years is definitely a milestone — a marker.”
Story gets better
Years ago when Juricic ran his first marathon, he thought it would be a lark and something to tell his grandchildren. Now, the story for future generations is even better. During today’s marathon, he again will don his purple “Pancreatic Cancer Survivor” shirt and as his 48th birthday was the day before, his “Happy Birthday” sign also is in tow.
“2009 was going to be my last marathon, but I’ve been applying in secret and got in this year,” said Juricic, whose will be running in his sixth marathon. “It’s a big time commitment, and I kept thinking ‘Do I have it in me?’ But, then I thought to do it every five years for ... forever. That could be my goal.”
“I run because I did before. I run now because, against all odds, I still can,” he added. “This marathon is a celebration of that blessing.”
Most who have pancreatic cancer never see a fifth anniversary. The survival rate is only 6 percent to reach five years or more, said Todd Cohen, 36, of Edison.
The media representative and co-founder of the Northern New Jersey affiliate of the Pancreatic Center Action Network, Cohen knows all too well the statistics of pancreatic cancer. His father, Richard Cohen, died at age 59 in 2002 after a one-year battle with the disease.
“My father’s story is very much the same as many others,” Cohen said. “He had some back pain, abdominal pain. He was relatively healthy. He went for a regular checkup. Then he was diagnosed and I was telling him we would beat this. He was an anatomy and physiology professor. He knew. It was so devastating to see.”
The statistics also include Juricic’s father, Bruno Juricic, who after a diagnosis just after Father’s Day 2012, died seven weeks later in August at age 76.
“While I had the best scenario for the disease,” Juricic said, “he had the worst. And unfortunately, that’s the more typical.”
Juricic said this run will be different than the last. His father, who Juricic said was his “biggest fan and supporter” will not be there as he was in 2009. Juricic’s wife, Jacquelyn, and two children, Ana and Noah, 7, plan to trek from preselected spots in Brooklyn and Manhattan to the finish line in Central Park.
“My dad was always at those spots,” he said. “I know he totally will be there.”
Raising awareness
Juricic’s celebratory 26.2 miles comes one week after the NNJ PANCAN’s PurpleLight ceremony on Oct. 27 in Edison and one week before the annual PurpleStride fundraiser on Nov. 10 at the Mack Cali Business Campus in Parsippany. Juricic participates in those events as well.
“We had a very good turnout at the PurpleLight ceremony,” said Juricic, who is registration coordinator for PurpleStride. “For me, I love to see all the volunteers and people that make it happen. I get to catch up on everyone’s stories. There are survivors there and, it is always good to see them. It is very affirming and hopeful. On the flip side, we read the names of those who passed away. It is a way for all of us to come together for a very nice remembrance. I am there for me and also for my dad. We share our sadness but also move that sadness into something else — something that can improve people’s lives.”
While pancreatic cancer was never something Cohen or Juricic would wish for themselves or those they love, they said their involvement has become a blessing.
“It gave me purpose and perspective on life,” Juricic said. “It has become one of the best things to ever happen to me. I wake up every day — 365 days a year — and I feel most blessed. Before my feet touch the ground, before I splash water on my face, I think ‘I get to be alive.’ I am thankful for every day.”
“It’s a whole different life. I knew I had to do something,” Cohen said. “We are part of a fraternity we never wanted to be part of. But, it is all for a good purpose.”
Juricic said his thankfulness for his own life is anchored by what goes on “in the bigger picture of pancreatic cancer.”
“I think to myself ‘six out of 10 people like you don’t get to be here,’ ” he said. “‘You get to be here.’ This five-year mark is what I have been going for. If I do the marathon every five years, that would be a super way to celebrate. I’m surviving. I am lucky. People with pancreatic cancer who did not survive, they didn’t do anything different. For whatever reason, I am alive.”
Juricic reflected that he may be the only runner in today’s race who has gone the distance with pancreatic cancer.
“There are 35,000 people running, but when you pair it with surviving cancer, then surviving pancreatic cancer for five years, the Venn diagram shows there is a fair bet, it could be just a couple of people,” he said. “Maybe I’m the only.”
As Juricic runs, he feels it is good to be out there. He hopes his survival serves as hope to others connected to cancer.
“I know that my situation does make for a good story for others,” he said. “It’s not just about surviving, but thriving no matter where they are at.”
For Juricic, after three years of no ill effects, he has had recent bouts of pancreatitis and a surgery may be needed in the future to take care of stones in the pancreatic duct. But, he remains positive about the impact of the pancreatitis. Followup CAT scans for the cancer are now scheduled further and further apart. First they were every three months, then six months and soon, he hopes, they will be annually.
“That is scary for me,” Juricic said. “Most people have a reoccurrence of cancer in the first year. Now, I am officially five years. Five years is definitely a milestone — a marker.”

1 comment:

Emily Walsh said...

Hi there Jacquelyn, I was actually reading through a few of your posts and just had a quick question about your blog. I couldn't find any contact info and was hoping you could email me back when you get the chance, thanks!

Emily