In February 2012, Ashley
Anderson’s fiancé Tim Thiel
took her to the emergency
room for what they thought was
acid reflux. Shooting stomach
pains kept her up at night and
a persistent back pain had
plagued her for several months.
As they were waiting for the
results, they overheard hospital
They said pancreatic
cancer,” Ashley said. “Tim and
I just looked at each other and
I asked, ‘Are they talking about me? What’s a pancreas?’ ”
The next day, Ashley went into surgery for a biopsy.
Before she woke up, doctors broke the news to Tim that
Ashley had stage IV pancreatic cancer and likely had just a
few months to live. She was only 26.
I didn’t want to hear the odds,” she recalled. “Tim did
a lot of research, but I wouldn’t let him tell me the statistics.
I’m not a statistic.”
At first, Ashley struggled to remain positive. The
cancer had spread throughout her abdomen and doctors
had to surgically implant a feeding tube. After she started
chemotherapy, she lost her hair and remembers the shock of
seeing her reflection in the mirror and not recognizing herself.
As a former 911 dispatcher, Ashley knew that taking
control of the situation was key to restoring her sense of hope.
When I was released from the hospital, I just wanted to sleep.
People pushed me. I started taking walks in a wheelchair and
set small goals for myself. In May, I started progressing.” She
began eating by mouth again and gradually began gaining
In June, Ashley was well enough to join Tim and more
than 4,000 others at PurpleStride Washington, D.C. “It was
so encouraging to meet other survivors there,” she said. “One
had the Whipple procedure, which I hope to have someday.
And there were all of these people raising awareness and
educating people about the disease.” In August, Ashley
traveled to Pennsylvania for PurpleStride Pittsburgh, and in
September joined her family’s team at PurpleStride Detroit.
The events touch me in different ways,” she said. “At the
beginning, it’s very emotional. But it is also very encouraging
with the doctors talking about new developments and all of
the survivors. And it’s fun! PurpleStride D.C. had a band and
so everyone was dancing to celebrate, whether it was for the
cause or just being alive.”
Recently, Ashley went in to see her oncologist, and the
normally hard-to-read physician was openly shocked at her
progress. “My doctor was grinning,” says Ashley. “And that
grin was so motivating. I want to make her smile. I want to
confuse her and shock her. When I was diagnosed, people
were shocked that someone my age had pancreatic cancer.
Now I want to shock them by how well I’m doing. My doctor
is hopeful now. I’m hopeful.”
To read more about Ashley’s inspiring journey, visit her
FIGHTING PANCREATIC CANCER AT AGE 26
On September 30, family
members and friends touched
by pancreatic cancer came
together in more than 50
communities nationwide for
the second annual PurpleLight
National Vigil for Hope. Venues
for the events, which provided
an opportunity to honor loved ones fighting pancreatic cancer
and those who have lost the fight, varied from state capitol
buildings and beautiful parks to prominent cancer facilities.
Many PurpleLight gatherings featured guest speakers,
including local volunteers, caregivers, survivors, and pancreatic
cancer researchers. During the remembrance ceremony,
families and friends stood and illuminated purple glow sticks
when names of their loved ones were read. As the purple glow
filled the sky, participants were reminded of the reason we
are all fighting to end this
disease. PurpleLight united
thousands of individuals,
from Los Angeles to
Miami, from San Francisco
to Boston, determined to
raise awareness, create
hope and turn the nation
THOUSANDS GATHER ACROSS THE NATION FOR PURPLELIGHT 2012
Ashley Anderson and fian-
ce, Tim Thiel at PurpleStride
Detroit in September 2012
Ashley (third from right) and other survivors at PurpleStride
Washington, D.C. in June 2012
PurpleLight Washington, D.C.
PurpleLight Manhattan Beach