Moving Forward After Loss
- Sterling K. Brown is, again, using his platform to advocate for those touched by cancer. The actor lost his beloved uncle to pancreatic cancer in 2004.
- Grief is an unavoidable and essential part of the healing process following the loss of a loved one to cancer. It’s good to let yourself feel through the emotions of your loss.
- Members of the SurvivorNet community tell us that moving forward after loss does not mean you’re necessarily moving on. Things like time, therapy and support groups can also help as you navigate the journey of grief.
- Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive disease that is difficult to detect because symptoms – including jaundice and weight loss – typically present at a later stage in the cancer’s development.
The This Is Us star, married to Ryan Michelle Bathe, 45, recently announced his partnership with finance giant Mastercard and Stand Up To Cancer, a nonprofit that “funds and develops the newest and most promising cancer treatments to help patients today.”
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“Whether it’s ordering lunch or tapping for a latte, using your Mastercard can make an impact,” the Mastercard website explains. “Starting May 1st through July 15th, every time you tap in store or order online from qualifying restaurants and grocery stores Mastercard will donate one cent, up to $5 million, to Stand Up To Cancer.”
For Sterling, this campaign was one he wanted to be a part of because it makes contributing to the cause easy.
“If you would like to support cancer research and developments for treatment for it, I couldn’t think of an easier way than just using your card to get food, which is something you have to do,” he told PEOPLE. “I was like, ‘This seems easy.’ People like to do things when they’re easy and know that they’re doing something of value to make the world a better place. It didn’t seem like there was anything difficult about it. I was like, “Ah, this sounds like a campaign I can stand behind.”
The father of two does, however, know that not everyone has a Mastercard or the means to financially contribute to other cancer fundraising efforts. But to those people, Sterling says time is the most valuable thing they can give to the cancer community.
“Your time is probably the most valuable resource that you have at your disposal,” he said. “If you have someone in your family that is going through this particular disease, sharing your time with them in a way that is authentic and not split is probably one of the greatest things that you can do.”
Sterling K. Brown Uses His Platform
But this isn’t the first time the Black Panther has used his platform to try to help the cancer community. He also has a partnership with Survivorship Today – an initiative by pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb that “aims to share stories of people across the country who have been affected by cancer and advance our collective understanding of what it’s like to live with the disease today.”
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“Many of you know one of my passion projects is working with @bristolmyerssquibb’s #SurvivorshipToday where I connect with #cancer survivors about the raw realities of living with the disease,” Brown wrote in a February Instagram post. “Their stories are so inspiring! Go to SurvivorshipToday.com to watch.”
Sterling K. Brown’s Reason Why
Brown, like so many, has been personally touched by cancer. He lost his Uncle Sonny to pancreatic cancer in 2004 when his mother’s brother was 61. In a video for Survivorship Today, Sterling spoke about why he’s motivated to help others within the world of cancer.
“Before his diagnosis, I hadn’t seen the disease up close,” Sterling said. “But watching my uncle as he faced cancer helped me to begin to understand what it means to live with the disease and how the body, mind and your loved ones are impacted over time.”
Sterling went on to say that he is hopeful for advancements within the world of cancer and encouraged by how far we’ve come.
“I am emboldened by the idea that cancer may cease to be a death sentence in my lifetime,” he said. “And I want to do everything I can to support people who face it, whether it’s for six months like my Uncle Sonny, or for years.”
Losing a Loved One to Cancer
Grief is an inevitable – and essential – part of the healing process after losing a loved one to cancer. And when Brown lost his uncle to cancer, that grief was felt by his whole family.
“My entire family was devastated,” he said in a video for Survivorship Today.
There’s definitely no one way to cope, but Doug Wendt shared his thoughts on grief in a previous interview with SurvivorNet after losing his wife, Alice, to ovarian cancer.
“We’re never gonna move on, I don’t even think I want to move on, but I do want to move forward,” Wendt said. “That’s an important distinction, and I encourage anybody who goes through this journey as a caregiver and then has to face loss, to think very carefully about how to move forward.”
Everyone’s journey of grief looks different, but therapy and support groups can also be wonderful options to explore. It’s also important to keep in mind that time does not heal everything, but it certainly helps.
In an earlier interview with SurvivorNet, Camila Legaspi shared her own advice on grief after her mother died of breast cancer. For her, therapy made all the difference.
“Therapy saved my life,” Legaspi said. “I was dealing with some really intense anxiety and depression at that point. It just changed my life, because I was so drained by all the negativity that was going on. Going to a therapist helped me realize that there was still so much out there for me, that I still had my family, that I still had my siblings.”
Legaspi also wanted to remind people that even though it can be an incredibly difficult experience to process, things will get better.
“When you lose someone, it’s really, really, really hard,” Legaspi said. “I’m so happy that I talked to my therapist. Keep your chin up, and it’s going to be OK. No matter what happens, it’s going to be OK.”
Understanding Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer, the disease that took the life of Sterling’s uncle, is an aggressive disease that is difficult to detect because symptoms – including jaundice and weight loss – typically present at a later stage in the cancer’s development. In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Anirban Maitra, the co-leader of the Pancreatic Cancer Moon Shot at MD Anderson Cancer Center, explains what he typically sees when patients develop this disease.
“Because the pancreas is inside the abdomen it often doesn’t have symptoms that would tell you that something is wrong with your pancreas,” he says. “By the time individuals walk into the clinic with symptoms like jaundice, weight loss, back pain or diabetes, it’s often very late in the stage of the disease.”
Parents, siblings and children of someone with pancreatic cancer are considered high risk for developing the disease because they are first-degree relatives of the individual. PGVs (pathogenic germline variants) are changes in reproductive cells (sperm or egg) that become part of the DNA in the cells of the offspring. Germline variants are passed from parents to their children, and are associated with increased risks of several cancer types, including pancreatic, ovarian and breast cancers. Germline mutations in ATM, BRCA1, BRCA2, CKDN2A, PALB2, PRSS1, STK11 and TP53 are associated with increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
Jessica Everett, a genetic counselor at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, encourages people in this category to look into possible screening options.
“If you’re concerned about pancreatic cancer in your family, start by talking to a genetic counselor to learn more about your risk and what options you have,” Everett said.