Ryan and Lauren Moniz raise awareness of pancreatic cancer after losing their father to the disease.

Siblings Ryan and Lauren Moniz

An energetic, lively, bubbly personality.

A motto to “make friends with everyone.”

A man committed to living life with purpose, encouraging his family to do the same.

Avito Moniz was all of this and more to his children, Ryan and Lauren Moniz.

They lost their father to pancreatic cancer in September 2023. He was 73 years old.

“It came as a shock to all of us, his four kids and his extended family,” said Ryan of his father’s diagnosis. “And he wanted more time. He sought treatment and received it and had some magical experiences in the last nine months before his passing.”

During Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, Ryan and Lauren are paying tribute to their father by raising awareness of pancreatic cancer. They want others to know the symptoms and risk factors. They encourage everyone to understand their family history and to talk about it with their healthcare team.

For Ryan and Lauren, who also lost their paternal grandfather to the disease, their family history has prompted action. They are gathering information and asking questions so they can be proactive about their health.

“I’ve sought out genetic testing for myself to have better awareness of the risks that this disease might pose to me personally,” Ryan said. “I have really taken the initiative to advocate for myself with my healthcare providers so they’re aware of my family history and we can take action over time going forward in the future.”

Ryan wants to make sure others have a better shot at survival, which hinges in part on catching the disease early. At stage I, when patients are eligible for surgery, the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is 44%. For patients with stage IV disease, when it has spread to other organs, the five-year survival rate is 3%.

First-degree relatives of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer may be at increased risk for the disease. If you have a parent, sibling or child diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, PanCAN encourages you to talk to your doctor to see if you should have genetic testing for inherited risk. Contact PanCAN Patient Services for free information and one-on-one support.

“My dad was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer and he had more limited options in terms of treatment available to him,” Ryan said. “So taking action early, knowing your family history and talking to your doctors about the risks and early detection, I think is really critical.”

Like so many, Avito’s journey began with mild stomach discomfort and other vague symptoms. After consulting with a gastroenterologist and several other doctors, he went through a series of tests and imaging that ultimately led to his diagnosis.

Although the news of stage IV pancreatic cancer was devastating to Avito and his whole family, they pulled together and found strength in each other and through PanCAN. Last year, they participated in PanCAN PurpleStride Los Angeles for the first time. This year, Team Avito’s Legacy celebrates their father and his legendary mustache: Their team logo is built around it.

“I think in my entire lifetime, I’ve only seen one photo of my dad without a mustache and he was probably 22 years old,” laughed Lauren.

Lauren and Ryan encourage anyone facing pancreatic cancer to contact PanCAN. It may seem like an overwhelming time, but help is out there and a team of people are ready to be by your side.

“The one thing I would like people to know about pancreatic cancer is that it can hit you really hard but you’re not alone,” said Ryan. “There is an incredible community that PanCAN supports.”

Their father’s memory lives on in the work Ryan and Lauren are doing – they know he’d be proud.

“We often like to joke that his sole purpose in life was to make friends with everyone,” said Ryan. “He’d make conversation with the person bagging groceries and just spread that little bit of joy for others on a daily basis. He did the little things right and encouraged us all to live mission-driven lives.”

That calling brings them back to PanCAN – to make sure others don’t fight alone.

“PanCAN gives us hope,” said Lauren. “Knowing what PanCAN does for people that are impacted by this disease – that gives us hope.”

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Contact PanCAN Patient Services for free information and personalized one-on-one support.