Retired Air Force Maj. Duane Sindt of Medford wasn't a health nut but he watched what he ate and the avid hiker didn't shirk exercise.
"He was health conscious — he took good care of himself," recalled his wife, Linda Sindt. "He was healthy. He didn't have any cancer symptoms."
But, it turned out, he did have pancreatic cancer. Her husband of nearly 40 years died of the disease on July 8, 2012. He was 72.
Now his widow and their Medford church — Ascension Lutheran Church — have teamed up with the Providence Cancer Center to hold a community forum on pancreatic cancer.
The free session will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday at the Ascension Lutheran Church, 675 Black Oak Drive, Medford.
The keynote speaker will be Dr. Pippa Newell of the Providence Cancer Center in Portland whose expertise includes pancreatic cancer surgery. She also is researching how the immune system interacts with pancreatic and liver cancer.
Joining her in a panel will be several cancer specialists from Southwest Oregon, including Dr. Kenneth Haugen, Radiation Oncology Consultants; Dr. Marie Wehage, Internal Medicine; and moderator Dr. Peter Adesman of Gastroenterology Consultants. Adesman specializes in pancreatic disorders.
The session will cover everything from the latest research to treatment options, and pain and side-effect management.
"It's open to anyone who wants to come — caregivers, health care providers, patients and survivors, friends and families," said Sindt, a retired Air Force colonel. "It is such an unknown disease to many yet it is becoming increasingly prevalent."
In addition to her husband, pancreatic cancer has struck two other members of the church.
"Sadly, it has deeply touched the hearts of Ascension's congregation," said Doug Vold, the church's pastor. "We are happy to participate in this important educational outreach to the community at large."
According to statistics provided by the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer has the lowest relative survival rate of all major cancers.
In fact, 74 percent of those diagnosed with the disease die within the first year of diagnosis. And only six percent of pancreatic cancer patients will survive more than five years, it noted.
Nationally, it is the fourth leading cause of cancer death, and is expected to take more than 37,000 lives this year. Pancreatic cancer is expected to jump to the second leading cause of cancer death in the nation by 2020. It is already ranked third in Oregon when it comes to cancer deaths.
Pancreatic cancer is a leading cause of cancer death primarily because there are no good early detection tools or effective treatment options, according to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
"We hope this event will spur greater awareness with the public at large about the grim facts surrounding this devastating cancer, the resources that are available and the great need that exists for a more focused national battle plan," Linda Sindt said.
Anyone who wants to become involved in helping fight the disease but is unable to attend the forum can email Sindt at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or email him at email@example.com.