(L-R) Sister Lucy Buffett, Jimmy’s daughter, Savannah, Laurie, and big brother Jimmy Buffett

Growing up, Laurie Buffett McGuane was close to her big brother, the legendary singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett. Decades later, their bond grew stronger as each faced their own cancer diagnoses.

In late 2019, Jimmy was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma. Months later, Laurie was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Both supported one another through calls and visits.

Unfortunately, Jimmy, famous for celebrating the simple things in life through his famous songs like “Margaritaville,” passed away in early September 2023.

Laurie McGuane standing on a large brown horse.

Laurie rode as much as she could during treatment.

Now a nearly four-year pancreatic cancer survivor, Laurie, who found inspiration from her brother during treatment, carries that inspiration on through her work raising awareness and funds for PanCAN.

In this rapid-fire Q&A, Laurie shares her story and has a special request for you!

PanCAN: Were you experiencing any symptoms?

Laurie: Yes! I was experiencing a weird, electric-like spasm on my ride side. I thought I had a “runner’s stitch.” When the pain didn’t go away, I had it checked out.

PanCAN: Tell us about your diagnosis – when were you diagnosed and at what stage?

Laurie: The doctor thought the pain was possibly caused by gallstones, so she ordered a scan. I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on March 10, 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, at stage 2b.

PanCAN: What treatments have you had?

Laurie: I had a distal pancreatectomy and then 12 rounds of chemotherapy (Folfirinox).

PanCAN: How did you connect with PanCAN?

Laurie: I contacted PanCAN immediately after my diagnosis.  My dear cousin had passed away from the disease. His daughters contacted me and told me to get in touch with PanCAN Patient Services right away.  They sent brochures, booklets and gave me names of survivors to contact before my first chemo.  It helped immensely as I was so very frightened and just listening to the survivors’ stories calmed me down.

Laurie McGuane standing in front of a window giving thumbs up while receiving treatment for pancreatic cancer.

Laurie found inspiration through her brother, Jimmy, during treatment.

PanCAN: What was it like for you and Jimmy to go through your cancer journeys together?

Laurie: Jimmy was diagnosed about six months before me. My sister and I thought it was routine skin cancer and he would be through treatment and out the other side.  He did fine in treatment, playing small shows (post pandemic) segueing to larger arenas. Then the side effects of treatment became more unmanageable, and he was forced to postpone several shows.  That bothered him more than the treatments as he truly adored the Parrotheads and appreciated their loyalty over many decades.

Meanwhile our scans seemed to coincide every three months. We were each other’s backup.  It’s true what they say that no one really knows what it is like to go into a cancer scan unless you experienced it firsthand. No guarantees. So, we talked and talked. His victory was my victory and vice versa.

PanCAN: What would you tell someone else who is going through what you’ve experienced?

Laurie McGuane standing behind her seated husband Tom McGuane with her arms lovingly around his shoulders.

Laurie and her husband Tom.

Laurie: Don’t ignore potential warning signs! Contact PanCAN and get yourself informed immediately. Look for clinical trials, get second opinions, look at recent research but don’t be complacent.  It is the most frightening experience ever but put yourself in charge.  Walk, walk, walk during chemo if you can.

PanCAN: Anything else you’d like to add?

Laurie: I’m celebrating my birthday this month and my wish is that everyone registers right now for PanCAN PurpleStride, happening on Saturday, April 27, 2024, and joins my team, Lala’s Lopers! (My grandkids call me Lala.) PurpleStride is PanCAN’s biggest fundraiser of the year and raises critical funds to further progress for this disease.

And of course, many thanks to PanCAN for all the work and care you extend to patients.

Contact a PanCAN Patient Services Case Manager
Register now for our biggest fundraising event of the year, PanCAN PurpleStride, happening in communities across the country on Saturday, April 27, 2024!