Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Jeanne Lipshetz of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month is held every November. While it ended several weeks ago, many are working to fight the deadly cancer all year round. One Milwaukee woman is doing just that, and her work with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, or PanCan, makes her this week’s Natalie’s Everyday Hero.
During the month of November, the Mitchell Park Domes were illuminated in the color purple. Purple has become a well-known symbol in the fight against pancreatic cancer. On the evening of Nov. 17, hundreds of people gathered inside the Domes for Purple Light. It’s a yearly event to remember those who’ve passed away and those who are still fighting.
Jeanne Lipshetz is one of the driving forces behind the event.
“Unfortunately, we're all involved in this purple club that none of us expected to be in,” Lipshetz said.
As the affiliate chair for the Milwaukee chapter of PanCan, she works all year long to raise awareness and funding in the fight against pancreatic cancer.
“When it first started it was just a small affiliate,” she explained. “And every year it seems to be growing and growing and growing.”
Lipshetz got involved 10 years ago, and like many people, her interest came after loss.
“In 2010, my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” she said. “And she lost her battle in June, June 7.
Unfortunately for the Lipshetz family, there was more bad news to come.
“The day we buried her, we found out my sister who was 55 at the time, had stage 4 pancreatic cancer,” Lipshetz said.
Her sister, Linda, died that same year.
“So, she passed six months later, a week before Christmas,” Lipshetz remembered. “We were all, the whole family was devastated, not only to lose one person, but two people.”
Jeanne’s husband, Steve Lipshetz, said the sisters were very close, and the families often vacationed together. The couple had moved back to Milwaukee to be closer to Jeanne’s family.
“It was really devastating,” he said. “Her mother was really bad. Her sister passed away at 55 and that was even worse.”
The pain prompted action. Jeanne and Steve both joined PanCan. In the last decade, they’ve overseen tremendous growth in the annual Purple Stride Walk held at Miller Park. They’ve also traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, pressing them for more funding to fight pancreatic cancer.
“We walk the hill, all the purple people,” Lipshetz said with a smile. “We ask our senators and congressmen, we beg them, for more funding.”
And because of her family history of pancreatic cancer, Jeanne Lipshetz is involved in testing to help with early detection.
“I go to Froedtert once a year and I get yearly blood work,” she said. “I'm in a program there, that if something happens, they can detect it early for me.”
But what has helped heal some the hurt, she said, is the community she’s helping to create through the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
“We can all talk, and we can talk about our feelings, and about losing people,” she explained. “And you find out that you're not alone.”
For more information on the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, you can visit https://www.pancan.org/.
And if you’d like to nominate someone for Natalie’s Everyday Heroes, just send Natalie an email at [email protected] We want to hear about people doing good work in your community.