Lisa Beckendorf is a 20-year pancreatic cancer survivor. She was shocked when she learned about her diagnosis because she didn’t have symptoms.

Editor’s note: Lisa Beckendorf is a 20-year pancreatic cancer survivor. She serves as PurpleRideStride Chair for the Minnesota Affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN).

How did you first learn about PanCAN?

I found out about PanCAN about 12 years after my diagnosis. I was at a symposium at Mayo Clinic and the Affiliate Chair for our Minnesota Affiliate of volunteers was the keynote speaker. I was inspired and impressed by what I heard.

You then got involved with the Minnesota Affiliate – how do you raise awareness for the cause not only during Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, but year-round?

One of the things that I do to raise awareness is to serve as the chair for the PurpleRideStride fundraiser event in our community. It’s a bike ride and 5K walk/run that brings out about 2,000 participants every year. People who have been touched by pancreatic cancer are there, as well as the public.

This year we are expecting a record number of pancreatic cancer survivors there – about 75! I’m hopeful we can soon have 100 pancreatic cancer survivors on stage being celebrated. I’m very proud to be part of this event.

When you were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, what symptoms were you experiencing?

I didn’t have any symptoms – I was diagnosed by accident. It was during an exploratory surgery that they found a tumor on my pancreas.

When I was told I had pancreatic cancer, I didn’t realize how serious it was. I was a lot younger and just wanted to move on with my life. Knowing what I know now, I feel beyond lucky to be a 20-year survivor.

Lisa Beckendorf, a pancreatic cancer survivor and volunteer, at right with friends at PurpleRideStride bike ride and 5K walk.

Lisa Beckendorf, far right, is the PurpleRideStride Chair in Minnesota.

What would you tell people who are facing pancreatic cancer today?

Keep hope! There is so much progress being made in research around early diagnosis and treatment. Stay positive.

And what would you like the public to know about this disease?

Be aware of the risks and symptoms of pancreatic cancer. You can easily write off the symptoms as something else. But pay attention to your body and what is normal and what doesn’t seem quite right and discuss those things with your doctor.

Push your doctor to take a closer look if needed. Persist.

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