When you are growing up you believe that your parents are invincible. As young adults, Jennifer (Jenny) Jordan Pickett and Robin E. (Rieger) Walsh never thought that either one of them would lose a parent. Joyce Fox Jordan was a terrific grandmother that would never meet five of her eight grandchildren and Robert E. Rieger was a loving father that would not be there to walk his youngest daughter down the aisle. These two wonderful parents, each from a different family, suffered and succumbed to pancreatic cancer before either one of them could see their families flourish.
Joyce Fox Jordan – daughter, wife, and mother – was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after seven months of being treated for other conditions. Her family searched for the best treatments, best hospitals and best doctors and enrolled her in a clinical trial that looked promising. She responded to the drug and the tumor stopped growing, and even showed signs of decreasing. The family was overjoyed. However, before rejoicing too much, doctors discovered that her cancer metastasized into the liver and that required immediate treatment, chemotherapy, and the discontinuing of her experimental treatment. The setbacks began. The liver tumor did respond to treatment, but the pancreatic tumor began to grow again. At that time, the clinical trial drugs were not approved in combination with other drugs, thus, the treatment of the pancreatic cancer was lost. It has since been determined that she contributed to the FDA approval of a new chemotherapeutic treatment for pancreatic cancer. Joyce fought for 23 months, but passed away at the age of 61. She is survived by her husband of nearly 40 years, Charles, and 3 children: David, Pamela Yoder and Jennifer Pickett (all Purdue graduates).
She also left behind 3 grandchildren, but was never to know an additional 5 grandchildren.
Robert E. Rieger– a beloved husband, father and grandfather, was a 30 year testicular cancer survivor. This time, after six months of treatment for stomach pains the doctors performed exploratory surgery and his pancreatic cancer diagnosis was determined. The tumor was considered inoperable and there were very few treatment options available. He started the traditional treatment of chemotherapy right away. The same chemotherapy treatment Joyce Jordan received. It appeared that he was responding well by gaining weight, while tumor size and cancer marker levels were decreasing. But after seven months of chemotherapy his initial symptoms of vomiting after eating and weight loss returned. The family frantically combed the US for more treatment, but there were none, his cancer had spread throughout the abdominal cavity. After only 10 months, the family realized there was no hope and said good bye to their dad at the age of 66. He is survived by his wife, Carolyn of 43 years, four children: Robin Walsh, Christine Whipple, Robert, Jr. and Elizabeth Deyoub. He also left behind nine grandchildren.
Since Robert's death in 2008, his older brother, William, also died from pancreatic cancer in 2010. Then in 2011, his twin brother, Roger, developed fast changing pancreatic cysts, which prompted doctors to remove his pancreas immediately leaving him to be diabetic. With this possibility of a genetic link, all of the children from these three brothers are now faced with the possibility of also developing pancreatic cancer. Jenny and Robin's daughters met just a few years ago and they had no idea that their children’s friendship would blossom their relationship into starting this mission. Jenny lost her mother to pancreatic cancer years before, therefore she was able to lend support to Robin when she was going thru the loss of her father. Here they realized that in the 15 years that separated their parent's deaths no progress had been made in the treatment or prognosis of this cancer (survival rate of patients is 4-6%). This is when Jenny and Robin made the commitment to find a cure for this horrific disease. With Jenny’s strong family history with Purdue University and Robin’s fundraising experience the women put their talents together to host the funds first Live and Silent Auction Dinner in 2008.
These stories demonstrate that not only is pancreatic cancer difficult to diagnose, but no cure has yet been discovered. We are all committed to raising money and awareness for advances in detection, diagnosis, treatment and the cure of this deadly disease. This is why the Jordan-Rieger Fund for Pancreatic Cancer has been established at the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research. Please join us to find the cure.