West Side News

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

Family's battles lead Oliver to advocacy post


After losing three family members to pancreatic cancer, Jami Oliver is putting her all into fighting the disease that has a survival rate in the single digits.

The Dublin resident is the Columbus advocacy coordinator for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and she wants to get the kind of support breast cancer receives behind the cancer that is expected to affect about 45,000 people this year.

"I had a grandmother on my mother's side that died when I was 1," Oliver said.

"She was only 47 and had pancreatic cancer. Things have not changed in 40 years.

"What my grandmother faced in 1969, is what people face now."

According to information from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, or PanCan, treatment options for pancreatic cancer are limited and there are no good early detection tools.

Despite living healthy, Oliver's mother also succumbed to pancreatic cancer.

"My mom used to say, 'I don't want you to have to watch me die like I did my mom,' " Oliver said. "Her 68-year-old brother got it and died."

Shortly after that, Oliver's mother was diagnosed with pancreatitis and then Type II Diabetes, two symptoms of the cancer.

"Literally six months later she started losing weight and she was diagnosed with phase four pancreatic cancer," Oliver said, noting her mother died four months after the diagnosis.

Knowing the odds were against them, Oliver and her three sisters sought testing that could identify the likelihood of them getting pancreatic cancer, but could find none.

With two sisters likely to get pancreatic cancer, Oliver turned to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

"As I started looking into it, I realized what a good charity it is," she said. "Eighty-seven percent of the money goes into research."

Even though planning to move her Oliver Law Office to Dublin has kept her busy, Oliver went through four interviews to become the central Ohio advocacy coordinator for PanCan.

Soon after her appointment to PanCan, one of Oliver's sisters discovered she had precancerous cysts on her pancreas. Little can be done, however, but to monitor it.

Oliver is hoping to change that through PanCan. The group's goal is to find early detection tools and effective treatments.

To do that, funding is needed for research. Oliver will travel to Washington, D.C., June 17 and 18 for Advocacy Day. Advocates from throughout the country will meet in Washington, D.C., to ask Congress to protect federal funding for pancreatic cancer research.

Locally, people can get involved by calling their legislator June 18, Oliver said. Details are available online at pancan.org/TakeAction.

"There are so few survivors, it's heart breaking," she said.

Oliver also will lead a team in the Aug. 3 Purple Stride fundraiser in Columbus.

"It's (PanCan's) biggest fundraiser of the year," she said.

"It's not as big as Komen yet, but it will be. By 2015 or 2020, (pancreatic cancer) will be the second leading cause of cancer death."

The Columbus PanCan group meets at 7 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month at the Columbus AIDS Task Force offices on the third floor of the Fifth Third building at 4400 N. High St. in Columbus.