These days, Tami Williamson sports bright purple hair and she doesn’t mind at all if you ask her about it. In fact, she wants you to.
The purple? That’s for Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and she can tell you sometimes more than you can handle about the third deadliest cancer in the nation.
Seventy-five percent of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer die within the first year of diagnosis. Only 8 to 9 percent survive to the five year mark.
“I plan on being in that 9 percent,” says Williamson. She’s coming up on three years as a pancreatic cancer survivor.
Williamson is preparing for her second PurpleStride Walk that takes place Saturday, Nov. 11.
Last November, Williamson — after spending much of the year building up basic strength again — there were months when getting out the front door of her house was a challenge — she, along with her friends and family, participated in the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network ‘s PurpleStride fundraiser walk in William Land Park in Sacramento.
Proceeds from the walk go to fund early detection research for pancreatic cancer. Most people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer find out they have it in its later stages — early detection screening would go along way in saving lives.
Last year, Williamson raised nearly $2,000 for the cause and hopes to raise that much this year. So far, she’s found many businesses in Indian Valley to sponsor her walk, but she’s looking for more. Young’s Market, Plumas Medical Supplies, Tanner Business Equipment, Glover Construction and Dalton Appraisal have signed on to sponsor Williamson.
This year’s walk she hopes is easier. She’s spent the year doing walks for various causes — she’s up to five of them now. She’s also had enough energy and push to do things she’d never have dreamed of doing before — like whitewater rafting in the Snake River. She’s really feeling good these days, she says, but the doctors don’t give pancreatic cancer survivors a green light.
She’s been active and vocal about the cancer that has cut down the lives of Indian Valley friends too soon. Along with her husband and daughter who accompanied her on last year’s walk, Williamson
will be joined by friend Janet Garman who has lost a sister and a cousin to the cancer, and Beth Sosner who lost her mother, Susie Wilson, to the cancer.
Her activism also caught the attention of the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, who made her one of its 30 ambassadors for awareness this year across the nation. Williamson chose June 22 — her mother’s birthday — as her day for ambassador goodwill across social media. Her mother was a lung cancer survivor. The foundation encourages other cancer survivors to tell their story and share the experience with the public. The media campaign is called “#showyourgrit” after Wayne’s movie “True Grit.”
She has more plans for her awareness campaign in November. On Tuesday, Nov. 7, she’ll go before the Plumas County Board of Supervisors asking them for awareness support. Nov. 11 is her walk and Thursday, Nov. 16, is World Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day.
“Fifty-three thousand people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year,” said Williamson. She recalls her own belated diagnosis after having put up with abdominal pain for too long. No amount of painkillers would work on her. She had no appetite. Nothing tasted good to her anymore. She experienced rapid weight loss. All were signs of pancreatic cancer. She was diagnosed three years ago.
These days, Williamson tries to maintain a healthy diet of mainly fruits and vegetables. She still has a soft spot for pie however, and can be seen frequenting her friend Lorraine Hanson’s shop in Taylorsville. Hanson supports her by letting her tell interested customers about pancreatic cancer awareness — and they usually do ask about her purple hair.
Williamson would love more community support for the Nov. 11 walk. Her team, the Indian Valley Striders, has a donation page at support.pancan.org/site/TR/PurpleStride under her name.