PanCAN youth advocate and mother in Washington, D.C. for PanCAN’s annual advocacy event

Lola Shanahan and her mother, Rebecca, in Washington, D.C., in 2018 to advocate for more federal research funding for pancreatic cancer.

Andrew Morgan and Lola Shanahan are 14 and 11 years old, respectively. They do not know each other – Andrew lives in Colorado and Lola in Nevada. But they have several things in common.

Both lost grandfathers to pancreatic cancer. Both are passionate about speaking up for causes that matter to them. Both are Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) advocates.

We asked each of them – they’ve both been to PanCAN’s Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., before and are participating in PanCAN’s first-ever virtual Advocacy Week this week – to explain why at any age, you CAN make a difference when you share your story and your passion.

PanCAN youth advocate and father on Capitol Hill at PanCAN's Advocacy Day in 2012

Andrew Morgan and his dad, Brian, on Capitol Hill as PanCAN advocates in 2012. Andrew is now 14.

In Andrew’s words…

My grandpa died of pancreatic cancer when I was 4. My mom tells me I am just like him.

I don’t really love school assignments…

“Neither did he,” Mom says.

I’m a deep thinker…

“Just like him,” she says.

I can put myself in other people’s shoes…

“He did the same thing,” she says.

I was 5 or 6 years old the first time I went to PanCAN’s Advocacy Day with my parents. I remember wearing a purple tie! I met one of our senators, who told me, “It’s powerful of you to be here and tell me how you feel about pancreatic cancer. It shows that it’s not just adults who care about this issue and that pancreatic cancer impacts everybody – even kids.”

PanCAN youth advocates

Andrew Morgan (back) and siblings in a recent photo. They lost their grandfather to pancreatic cancer.

To me, it definitely says a lot when kids participate in advocacy. You have a voice, even through you can’t drive and you don’t have an ID. I know that my voice is just as powerful as others in the room and that’s a good feeling.

In addition to Advocacy Week, I will also be participating in PurpleStride Colorado this month. It’s been great to see the walk grow over the years. As a family, we are all committed to finding ways to cure pancreatic cancer.

I don’t want to see other people lose grandparents to pancreatic cancer, so I’ll keep advocating for as long as I can.

Lola writes…

I became an advocate for PanCAN because my grandfather passed away from pancreatic cancer when I was just 3 years old. I believe advocacy is important because it shows that you care about a cause or disease and it provides a way to help find a cure faster.

This is my fifth year as a pancreatic cancer research advocate. My favorite memory from PanCAN’s Advocacy Day would probably have to be when I shared the experience with my BFF [best friend forever], Tilly. We laughed, got dressed up and it was fun having her along with my mom and me.

Lola and her best friend traveled to Capitol Hill in 2019, as documented in this video, to advocate for more federal research funding for pancreatic cancer.

Young PanCAN advocate with Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada

Lola Shanahan, now 11, lost her grandfather to pancreatic cancer. Here, in Washington, D.C., with former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid.

When I first started advocating for PanCAN, I was excited but nervous at the same time because I had no idea what to say or how to act. But I was only 7 so it didn’t worry me TOO much. The whole day that I spent on the Hill I didn’t really speak. I only spoke when someone asked me something.

During the last meeting though, with former Sen. Harry Reid [Reid has since been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer], I told my story. I think what made me do it was at every meeting prior to that I watched my mom share her story. I thought, “I can do this!”

As I shared my story, everyone broke down in tears. That was when I knew that my story mattered and that I could do this and it will be something I won’t stop doing. (I would like to explore being an advocate for animal issues, also.)

For future advocates, here is some advice: Have fun and don’t let your nerves get the best of you because it won’t be a crisis if you mess up.

And, it’s your story, so what is there to mess up? The coronavirus won’t stop us from doing something so important.

We can’t be on the Hill, but we can be heard!

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Send a message to Congress today about the importance of pancreatic cancer research funding and why it matters to you.