Clark family persistent in pancreatic cancer cause

CLARK, NJ — Every November, members of one Clark family dress in purple and make their annual pilgrimage to the Township Council meeting to spread the word about World Pancreatic Cancer Day.

For nine years, the Cohen family, clad in purple, which represents pancreatic cancer awareness, have attended the council meeting to witness the renewal of a proclamation that brings attention to the fatal affliction.

“My father, Richard Cohen, died of this disease 15 years ago and my goal is to help others avoid the same fate he went through,” Todd Cohen told LocalSource on Nov. 23. “Our goal is to raise awareness about pancreatic cancer and save lives to this insidious disease.”

On Nov. 20, Mayor Sal Bonaccorso called Todd Cohen and his family to the podium at the council meeting to proclaim Nov. 16 World Pancreatic Cancer Day in Clark.

“The Cohen family has been here every year in November, since their father’s passing, to renew the proclamation and bring awareness to help find a cure in pancreatic cancer,” Bonaccorso said.

Bonaccorso continued, stating the good health and well-being of Clark residents are a direct result of increased attention about pancreatic cancer, research into early detection, causes and effective treatment.

Cohen echoed Bonaccorso’s statement, speaking to the fact that his father was a vibrant member of the Clark community who was involved in the Clark Historical Society.

“It’s really important we raise information about this disease,” Cohen said. “We are going to continue working together to end this disease, and hopefully end all cancers sometime in our lifetime.”

Cohen told LocalSource that he and his family have been advocates for increased awareness of pancreatic cancer since it claimed his father at the age of 59.

“He was a relatively healthy man when he received his diagnosis and to see him go through what he did was very difficult for my family and myself,” Cohen said. “I vowed to do whatever I could to help eradicate this disease.”

In addition to awareness at the community level, Cohen and his family are national advocates, members of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network which provides patient support, conducts community outreach and public proponents for increased federal research funding.

The PanCAN organization takes part in a national advocacy day every June, when hundreds from all across the country travel to Washington to lobby Congress for more money, Cohen said.

Reading aloud the proclamation, Clark Township Clerk Edie Merkel noted the stark statistics surrounding the disease.
In 2017, an estimated 53,670 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States and 43,090 will die from it.
It is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, currently the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death and projected to be the second-deadliest by 2020.

Due to symptoms that are rarely noticeable until in the disease’s later stages, 71 percent of patients die within a year of diagnosis while 91 percent die within five years.

In New Jersey, the five-year survival rate is a mere 9 percent, with approximately 1,270 deaths expected in 2017, according to Merkel.