CREOLE, LA (KPLC) - Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all cancers, leaving those diagnosed with little hope of a bright future. The disease took the life of 34-year-old Sarah Henry, of Creole, last year.
Sarah was always the center of attention with friends and her three younger siblings. "She just had a personality and she liked to be the ruler of the roost," said her mother, Anne. "She always wanted to be in charge and that has been that way since day one."
Anne says Sarah's big personality could be summed up with one word. "Bubbly," she said, "she was bubbly."
Sarah was always healthy and active, even going to Louisiana Tech on a track scholarship.
Once she graduated, she found her life's calling as a social worker at the Methodist Children's Home. "She loved to work with people," said Anne, "she was very, very good with special needs kids."
Everything in life seemed just perfect until Sarah's appearance started to change in the spring of 2012. "I kept on questioning her and I kept on saying, 'Sarah, you're losing weight, what's the matter?' and she would say, 'Mom, I'm eating all the time.'"
Sarah had been having issues like acid reflux and indigestion, but nothing too alarming until she began having severe back pain. "I said, 'Sarah, did you take some medicines?' and she said she took all the medicines and nothing is working."
Sarah and Anne went to the hospital. A series of tests finally confirmed the terrible diagnosis. "At the head of the pancreas was a mass and then it metastasized to the liver," said Anne.
It was aggressive pancreatic cancer. The prognosis was not good. "I asked what kind of time frame are we looking at and the doctor said 'you don't want to know that,'" said Anne.
Six months was the time frame given. That was Mother's Day weekend and Sarah did not skip a beat. "She was the life of the party," said Anne, "she took pictures, she played with the kids, she loved everybody and that was probably the best thing we did."
Sarah's fight lasted for four months. "I couldn't talk about her dying. I really couldn't," said Anne. "It wasn't until she closed her eyes that I actually knew that she was gonna die."
Sarah's family learned a tough reality with the pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Research for this disease is under funded, with only two percent of the National Cancer Institute's budget going to the leading cancer killer. "We have to stand up and make our voices heard in Washington, D.C. to get this research, get this funding," said Anne.
Just three months after burying Sarah, her family and friends came out in purple force - walking to raise money for pancreatic cancer research with Purple Stride Lake Area. It is something Anne says she can do to live out the final words Sarah wrote to her. "Enjoy the now by letting go of the what if and but if," she said.
You can help raise awareness and money for pancreatic cancer research Saturday, Dec. 7 at Prien Lake Park for Purple Stride Lake Area. The goal is $100,000. It is $25 for adult walkers and $10 for kids if you register now. Click here for more information and a link to register.