Opinion: The power of purple ribbons


Krista Fleming

Peyton Kuschmeider holds the purple ribbon with a photo of her late grandmother. The ribbon was worn at her grandmother’s funeral.

I heard my mother’s phone ring from the other room, only hours before my grandmother was supposed to visit. She had a doctor’s appointment that morning for the consistent stomach pain she had been having, but no one within our family thought it was anything significant. I ran into my mother’s room to listen in on the phone call; I was so excited to hear her warm and cheery voice say, “I’m on my way!” But, the words I heard instead would change my life forever. 

“They found tumors.”

I don’t remember much of the conversation after that. It felt like the world stopped spinning beneath my feet and everything was frozen in time. I didn’t know how to handle the diagnosis, so I rushed out of the room before I suffocated from the idea. My mind was racing, forming incomprehensible thoughts while I tried to tune out the conversation in the next room. 

For months, she suffered from stage 4 pancreatic and liver cancer. Things quickly took a turn for the worst, and in August of 2021, she passed away.

When I was first told about her pancreatic cancer, I didn’t even know it was a thing. I asked a million questions to better understand what she was going through because I had never heard of it before. 

It turns out that pancreatic cancer is the third deadliest cancer, at fault for taking the lives of 95% of its innocent patients. I may have been clueless, but the sad reality is nobody talks about it. Nobody talks about something so evil and deadly that took away someone I loved with all my heart.

Pancreatic cancer affects the lives of too many; 495,773 patients and the 466,003 people it kills in a single year. It affects their family and friends. It affected my grandmother and it still affects me today.

I never got the chance to say goodbye, nor the chance to visit her in the hospital, to see her or to feel her warm hugs one last time. There was no time as she was taken away from us at the speed of light. 

This November, I urge everybody reading this to do whatever they can to help victims of pancreatic cancer through researching the disease, listening to mine and other people’s stories, sharing your newfound knowledge with others, hugging your family and telling them you love them. If you’re able to, donate to fundraisers and charities that assist families affected, and if you’re not, the least you could do is wear a purple ribbon on your chest this month. I still remember the purple ribbon I wore at her funeral, which I’ve barely seen on anyone else any other day of the year.