PanCAN Survivor Council co-chairs Anne Shimabukuro and Nick Pifani are the voices for all survivors.

A Special Note to You on World Gratitude Day

We are grateful for the difference you make every day – without you, there would be no PanCAN. Today, on World Gratitude Day, we’re devoting extra time and care to express our gratitude by making as many thank you phone calls as we can and flooding social media with special messages to you. We hope you feel the love!

We also recently interviewed two special people for whom we are grateful: Our newest PanCAN Survivor Council co-chairs, Anne Shimabukuro of Potomac, Md., and Nick Pifani of Delran, NJ. They are both busy professionals with families who fundraise for PanCAN and are active within their PanCAN affiliates – Anne in Washington, D.C., and Nick in Philadelphia.

They are both pancreatic cancer survivors.

We thank you for supporting people like Anne and Nick and so many others with your time and with your gifts.

PanCAN: Why is PanCAN’s Survivor Council important? What are some of your hopes for the council?

Mom and daughter

Anne and daughter Holly distribute pancreatic cancer educational materials at an NBC event.

Anne: We’re here to give a voice to all survivors. Nick, the other members and I also want the council to be more action-oriented: proactively reaching out to newly diagnosed patients, banding together to swing a vote on Advocacy Day, meeting with donors to put a face to the word, “survivor” – there’s so much we can do.

Nick: The internet paints a scary picture of pancreatic cancer. The Survivor Council is an opportunity for us to tell a different narrative, and the story is that there ARE survivors. We all look different, come from different walks of life. People need to see that.

I promised myself that if I survived I would volunteer my time to help make a difference.

PanCAN: What’s your dream for the future of pancreatic cancer?

Anne: That a patient receiving the diagnosis will think, “OK, that’s manageable.” That it would be like receiving another cancer diagnosis, like breast cancer. Instead of hearing, “You need to get your affairs in order,” they’d hear, “Let’s talk about your treatment options. There’s one that’s working really well.”

I imagine a future where people feel hope instead of feeling crushed.

Nick: For me, it’s for us to be plugged into every hospital across the country.

I imagine a day when we can pair up every single newly diagnosed patient with a survivor right away. Someone of the same gender or race or in the same age range so it’s easier for them to relate.

Patients and caregivers who want to be matched with a peer through PanCAN’s Survivor & Caregiver Network can contact Patient Services.

PanCAN: Sept. 21 is World Gratitude Day. What and who are you grateful for?

Anne: I’m grateful to be able to give hope to others.

I remember talking to a Team Captain before PanCAN’s PurpleStride Washington, D.C. Her husband had just passed away and she didn’t want to attend the event – she thought it would be too sad. I told her how uplifting PurpleStride events are. A sea of purple. Positive people warmly welcoming everyone. The woman attended and was so glad she did. I’m grateful for that experience and so many others like that.

Nick:  It’s easy to root for people when things are good. When things are tough, your true friends show up. I think back to when I was diagnosed. I think about all the people in my corner. They helped me through treatment. They gave me a shot of energy. They gave me hope. I’ll never forget that.

Anne: And I’m grateful to our volunteers, donors and sponsors. Without them, we couldn’t accomplish a thing.

Husband and wife at PanCAN PurpleStride event.

Nick with wife Jennifer: “She’s the love of my life.”

PanCAN: Why is it important to share your story?

Anne: I am a 15 year survivor. It is important to tell my story because it is still rare. There are survivors among us but there should be more. I hope that newly diagnosed patients can hear our stories and see that there is a future.

Nick: I think it’s about hope. When patients are newly diagnosed, it can be overwhelming. But when you reach out, especially at the Affiliate level, you make friends. You find there are a lot more people like you. When you share your story and advocate for yourself and others, you’re giving people a glimmer of hope. That hope can change everything.

PanCAN: Close your eyes for a moment and imagine all our donors and volunteers. How do you feel?

Anne: I picture a sea of purple, like when I looked out on the crowd at PurpleStride from the stage. Everyone is there for a common purpose – to raise funds for, and awareness about, pancreatic cancer. I feel gratitude and sense of shared purpose. It is a very strong feeling.

Nick: I think of PurpleStride and I get very emotional.  Each survivors’ fight is unique. And when I think about the compassion and support that our donors and volunteers provide, I get pretty emotional and feel very proud.

PanCAN: What would you like to say to them or about them?

Nick: No one should fight pancreatic cancer alone.  I am very appreciative of your support and generosity…you are playing a key role in finding earlier detection and someday, a cure.

Contact a Patient Central Associate
We are here for you. Contact PanCAN’s Patient Services for personalized information about treatment options, PanCAN’s Survivor & Caregiver Network or any other questions you may have about pancreatic cancer.

You can read more Survivor Stories here.