17-year pancreatic cancer survivor at PurpleStride 5K walk

Kellie Elledge-Bott, third from right, with other pancreatic cancer survivors and supporters at PurpleStride Sacramento.

Editor’s note: Our weekly “It Starts with Someone” series takes a turn this month as we focus solely on people who have survived pancreatic cancer for more than a decade. Today, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) volunteer and supporter Kellie Elledge-Bott shares her nearly 18-year journey with pancreatic cancer. Keep an eye out for more stories from long-term survivors every week in August.

“What the heck is pancreatic cancer?”

Pancreatic cancer survivor and her grandson

Kellie E. Bott with her grandson, Franky – her “biggest little supporter.”

Those were my thoughts in 2001 when I was told I had the disease and that I should get my affairs in order. I had only heard of Michael Landon dying from it years before.

I was 34 years old and a divorced mother of two preteen kids. I knew I couldn’t leave them. But I was given only a 19 percent chance of surviving.

It’s been almost 18 years.

My tumor was the size of a softball, and it was at the tail of the pancreas, compromising blood flow to the spleen and left adrenal gland. During surgery, doctors removed two-thirds of my pancreas, plus the spleen and adrenal gland.

I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I or anyone ever thought I was. Shortly before my diagnosis, I had gotten out of an abusive marriage and was working more than 60 hours a week to support my children and myself.

I wasn’t listening to my body telling me to slow down. I now listen to it and tell others to do the same.  I also stop to “smell the roses.”

Pancreatic cancer survivor stands with people dressed in white Stormtroopers armor at fundraiser walk

Kellie and Stormtroopers at PurpleStride Sacramento last year.

Life is way too short to not do the things you are waiting for tomorrow to do. “Do it now,” I always say. Eat the cake. Walk in the rain. Dance. Sing. Just don’t wait for tomorrow.

What do I tell others who are in the same shoes I was in? Try your darndest to be positive, because it makes all the difference in the world. Cry when you need to – it cleanses the soul – but think about the good things in life, too.

I can’t picture my life without pancreatic cancer having been a part of it.

I’m grateful I can be a loud voice for those who have been silenced by pancreatic cancer. I’m grateful to have learned to smile again. I’m grateful that I got to meet my soulmate and get remarried. I’ve gotten to watch my children turn into great adults and become parents themselves.

I don’t – for one minute – take anything for granted.

— Kellie Elledge-Bott, 17-year pancreatic cancer survivor

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