Editor’s note: In honor of Black History MonthAnd We’re sharing inspiring stories from our community to honor those who are making progress against pancreatic cancer. Here, we share the story of Teona Dockery, a pancreatic cancer survivor and PanCAN volunteer from Atlanta, Georgia.
Since she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2016, Teona Dockery has been on a mission. You want to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of the disease. And she wants everyone — especially those in the black community — to feel empowered to ask questions and stand up for themselves.
“Defend, defend, defend,” she said. Members of the black community often put the needs of others first. We need to prioritize our health and needs so that we can live longer, better, and healthier lives. “
Teona points to her story as an example of how important patient self-defense is.
The doctors thought that the severe stomach pain she had been experiencing for some time was caused by an ulcer. At just 41 years old, pancreatic cancer was not a consideration. When she was finally diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer — on April Fool’s Day 2016 — it came as a shock. Soon, I was drawn into a new reality of doctor appointments, meetings with surgeons, and blood work and exams.
Six months of chemo went by, followed by surgery, and then another five months of chemo. Looking back, she’s grateful that her cancer was caught early, despite the difficult road to diagnosis.
Now, she’s focused on helping others affected by pancreatic cancer — with the hope that early detection will save more lives. In addition to serving on PanCAN’s Survivor Council (she recently completed her term of service), she has appeared in Public Service Announcements For PanCAN to spread the word about the importance of genetic testing and biomarker testing to help determine treatment options and familial risks.
RSVP for our free virtual event, “A Conversation on Pancreatic Cancer in the Black Community,” on February 23. The event was hosted by Teona Dockery, and features an empowering discussion with healthcare professionals, a member of our Board of Directors and a PanCAN Patient Services agent.
And you want patients to know how much of a lifeline PanCAN can provide to patients and their loved ones. When she was diagnosed, she called PanCAN Patient Services immediately. She spoke to a case manager who talked through treatment options including clinical trials and provided a list of pancreatic cancer specialists in her area.
She also participated in PanCAN’s “Know Your Tumor®” precision medicine service, which provides eligible pancreatic cancer patients and oncologists with information about patient biology through biomarker testing of tumor tissue and genetic testing for inherited mutations.
“Since getting tested, I’ve talked to my family and my children — now very young — about how important it is that they consider genetic testing to see if there’s a family link,” she said. “I firmly believe that knowledge is power.”
While Teona looks forward to the PanCAN initiatives she has been involved in, she is optimistic about the future. She points in particular to the January 2023 announcement that the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer had risen to 12%, up one percentage point from last year and the first time since 2017 that the survival rate had increased two years in a row. .
This milestone carries weight, as when she was diagnosed, her five-year survival was in the single digits. It’s an upward path that brings hope – and leaves it energized for what’s to come.
“We’ve made progress step by step,” she said. “It’s so rewarding to know that I — along with so many others — played a part in getting there. And we’re still going.”