CEO, Pancreatic Cancer Canada
Pancreatic Cancer Canada works year-round to broaden conversations around death and the importance of palliative care.
In a society that embraces youth, there’s very little discussion around life’s most inevitable feature, death. However, for the 7,000 Canadians diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year, death is an all-too-real topic of conversation. Ninety per cent of those diagnosed will die, meaning the survival rate is a mere 10 per cent — a stat that’s seen very little improvement over the years.
“People fear death, but when fear leads to denial, we miss the opportunity to have meaningful conversations on the way we want the end of our lives to unfold,” says Michelle Capobianco, CEO of Pancreatic Cancer Canada. An organization dedicated to advocating for people affected by a disease likened to a death sentence, Pancreatic Cancer Canada not only aims to raise awareness and fund research within the space but also shoulders the difficult duty of sparking conversation around what it means to be death-positive. “We have a great responsibility to help the 90 per cent of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer to die a good death,” says Capobianco.
Understanding palliative care
In its early stages, symptoms of pancreatic cancer aren’t often obvious. Most patients are diagnosed after the cancer has already metastasized, making it particularly lethal. Palliative care is a critical part of pancreatic cancer treatment, as it helps patients live out the rest of their life comfortably. “Palliative care focuses on reducing suffering, improving quality of life for people with life-limited illness,” explains Capobianco.
Unfortunately, there continues to be educational gaps within the health care system itself, impacting whether patients ever receive a palliative care referral. While attitudinal shifts take time, there’s an increasing need for Canadians to advocate for death-positive perspectives. “No matter what ‘dying a good death’ means to someone, everyone has that right, free of judgment and with the support they need,” says Capobianco. “Being death-positive is saying we want to participate in broader conversations around death.”
Canadians can support those suffering from pancreatic cancer by not only embracing a societal acceptance of death but by having an openness to the tough conversations that ultimately allow those suffering the chance to feel supported in dying a good death.
To learn more visit pancreaticcancercanada.ca.