Editor’s note: PanCAN supporter Kacie Meixel shares today’s story, leading up to Mother’s Day.
Allow me to tell you about my mom.
She was strong – a woman who needed no introduction because when she entered a room, you knew it.
She was thoughtful – her gifting skills were unparalleled and every single one was chosen specially for you.
Her laugh was loud and echoed longer than everyone else’s in the room.
Her hands were gentle, and the feeling of her fingertips on my cheek after the first uttering of the word “cancer” will remain etched into my memory for a lifetime.
She birthed me, raised me, and loved me when I forgot how to love myself. She taught me to listen, but also how to speak up. To do what’s right. To care for others. To find a way.
And then she died.
For the past eight years, I’ve been learning how to live without her. Pancreatic cancer didn’t care that I still had questions for her – that I still have no idea how to treat an upset stomach or how to make her baked beans.
So, I did something I DO know how to do: I started writing.
PanCAN’s work resonated with me.
Because I know that rigorous research is needed to better understand patterns, screening, diagnosis, and treatment options.
Because the survival rate is too low.
Because nobody deserves to look at their wedding photos for the first time snuggled with their mom in her hospital bed.
Because I’m still mad.
I started an online fundraiser in the months leading up to PanCAN PurpleStride USA and used the power of social media and language to tell her story, to honor the beautiful life she lived, and to give a big middle finger to the disease that took her from us.
It was read and shared, post by post. Over 70 people donated, and I raised my goal of $5,000.
I received stories from friends about experiences I never knew they had because I opened the door to a conversation that is so often buried.
- $5,000 to help end pancreatic cancer
- A hospice nurse recognizing how she can better support her patients and their families throughout their end-of-life care
- Beautiful, shared stories of loss and a love that endures
- A space for grieving, and as a result, healing
- A reminder that sickness is a universal human experience, and that no matter how hard we all try to disengage, the more we talk about it, the more we can wrap our arms around each other in support
And a poignant footnote: we are not alone.
I was drawn to my mom in her final moments. She was not alone.
I held her hand as she took her last breath. I watched a reel of our life together in my mind – a life so rich in laughter, joy and emotion. I kissed her forehead and stepped back to share the moment with family. I was not alone.
And you. No matter the role you’re playing – patient, survivor, caregiver, family member or supporter. You are not alone.
Together, we fight. Together, we are making strides.