Imagine how it feels to be diagnosed with a type of cancer that very few people survive. For many, it seems like a death sentence. Although overall 62% of people diagnosed with cancer will survive, too many cancers are still very difficult to treat. Pancreatic cancer, for example, has no early signs or symptoms and does not respond well to treatment. As a result, pancreatic cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of all cancers. As a result, only 6% of people diagnosed with this cancer will survive.

Intense back and stomach pain prompted Neville Reed to visit his family doctor in August 2004. Tests and a visit to a specialist later confirmed a frightening diagnosis – pancreatic cancer. A nine centimetre tumour had been found on the 66-year-old’s pancreas.

I Googled pancreatic cancer after I was diagnosed and two words kept popping up – dismal prognosis,” says Neville, a retired telecommunications researcher from the Ottawa-area.

After a visit with a surgeon and some further tests, Neville learned his cancer hadn’t spread to his lymph nodes and that the tumour could be removed. In a six-hour procedure doctor removed his spleen, two-thirds of his pancreas and part of his stomach. Neville then underwent six months of chemotherapy to destroy possible residual cancer cells and reduce the chances of the disease recurring. It took him about a year to regain energy, start eating solid foods and put on some weight.

The Canadian Cancer Society would like to see more people like Neville overcome the odds associated with pancreatic cancer. With the support of funds raised at Relay For Life, over the next five years the Society will be increasing research into hard-to-treat cancers in order to boost future survival rates.

Neville has been cancer-free for more than seven years and now uses his experience to support others with pancreatic cancer by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society’s Peer Support service.

A lot of people are looking for information and many just want to talk. We have an instant rapport because they know I’ve gone through what they’ve gone through and we talk about things that make them feel better,” says Neville.

The Peer Support service is also supported by funds raised at Relay For Life. It’s through the generous support of donors that the Society is able to offer this free service that helps so many people. Through its free information and support services the Society fights cancer by empowering, informing, supporting and improving the quality of life of Canadians living with all types of cancer.