Pancreas Matters Leadership Message December 2013, Marsha Balsinger

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Our guest columnist this month is Marsha (Garil) Balsinger, who has supported the work of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in numerous ways, even before the organization was formally founded. She went on to start the National Capital Area Affiliate serving the Washington, DC, area, where she served in the role of volunteer Affiliate Coordinator for many years. Marsha also created and operated ShopPurple, our national store offering branded merchandise. She is a true Pancreatic Cancer Action Network pioneer!

With warm regards,

Julie Fleshman, JD, MBA
President and CEO
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

Dear Pancreatic Cancer Action Network friends,

Marsha (Garil) Balsinger (left) unites with volunteer friends from across the country.

When my husband Stanley was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1997, the doctor estimated that he had three to six months to live. He almost made the six-month survival mark.

Stanley was a quiet man, but when you least expected it he would throw out a zinger of a one-liner that would crack everybody up. His sense of humor was unexpected, but it made an impact.

His pancreatic cancer diagnosis was equally unexpected and impacted our lives beyond imagine.

In need of support and desperate for reassurance that I wasn’t the only one devastated by pancreatic cancer (it certainly felt like it at the time), I soon found a local group that led me to Pamela Acosta Marquardt, who two years later went on to found the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. I also attended my first An Evening with the Stars gala in 1998, an event Pam started and that still raises funds to fight pancreatic cancer.

I’ve attended the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s annual gala ever since—with the exception of last year when I was on my honeymoon with my new husband and constant supporter, Jack. I always look forward to the gala. It is one of the times each year in which I show my support for the work the organization does through my financial donation.

Over the years, I’ve also found that giving the gift of my time is very fulfilling and meaningful. Along with others I met who had been touched by pancreatic cancer, I started what is now called the National Capital Area Affiliate in the Washington, DC, area. I served as Affiliate Coordinator for that volunteer affiliate for many years. I also volunteered to start and run the national store for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, today known as ShopPurple.

Marsha (Garil) Balsinger (right) at the annual An Evening with the Stars gala with Lisa Niemi Swayze (center) and friend and longtime Pancreatic Cancer Action Network supporter Marilyn Myrow (left).

The feeling of contributing to the big picture—both financially and through volunteering—is a large part of what helped me heal. I’ll never forget being a part of the first PurpleStride in Washington, DC, several years ago and seeing a massive sea of purple enveloping Pennsylvania Avenue. What a sight!

It’s been 15 years since I lost Stanley. My involvement in the work of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network was certainly not anticipated, but it has impacted me for the better. It saved me when my husband died. It gave me a place to funnel my energy and anger.

During this season of giving and reflection, it’s nice to be able to acknowledge and give thanks for how far the pancreatic cancer community and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network have come—drawing more scientists to the field to study the disease, providing more support for patients who have been diagnosed, and creating more awareness nationwide—and the roles that so many people have played in that progress. When you make a financial donation, volunteer or participate in an event with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, you can be sure your gifts are going toward something important.

The holidays are an excellent time to give to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in a way that’s meaningful to you. But your contribution makes a profound impact ANY day of the year. With everyone’s support, we’ll one day see an end to this disease.

In the meantime, I encourage you to give of your time, money or energy. You’ll get so much in return.

Wishing you a meaningful holiday season,

Marsha (Garil) Balsinger
Wilmington, NC