Couple brings attention to Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) – Despite the pandemic, it’s also important to prioritize your health.

A Laredo man urges people to not ignore signs of other health conditions or diseases.

Rock after rock adorn the walkway of this home, each rock with a splash of color or a special message for Ruben Vela and his family.

It’s the kind of support Ruben says is necessary to get through the journey he has had.

“They noticed a mass around the liver area and from there that is when everything took off.”

In June of 2019, Ruben was diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer.

Immediately, he began chemotherapy with hopes of shrinking the mass.

“Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer is one of the worst you can get.”

By the end of 2019, after several rounds of chemo Ruben was able to get a surgery called “Whipple” to remove the mass.

After a successful procedure, in February of 2020 Ruben began preventative chemo and radiation.

He is currently in remission.

Ruben’s wife Patty says they have been open about this personal journey, so others learn from their experience.

“If he would have got a checkup sooner, maybe his surgery would’ve been sooner, and he wouldn’t have had to do so much chemo.”

The American Cancer Society says pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly of all types of cancer.

This year, it estimates about 57,600 people will be diagnosed with it .

Ruben and Patty say they often see people put off their health, especially now during the pandemic.

“Men tend to be the most stubborn and the last ones to go to the doctor. Ruben started with minor pain and little issues but to him it was just acid reflex.”

With November being Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, the Vela family wants to do their part in bringing attention to this type of cancer in a unique way.

“We were trying to figure out something to do where we can maintain distance, but spend time together. I knew they started a rock project at a park. So, I messaged the lady and said ‘I’m sorry but can we steal your idea?’”

Soon enough, family and friends filled the Vela’s front yard with rocks.

Some are purple, others are elaborate but all with the same goal: to bring awareness.

“The sooner you get diagnosed the better. We want everyone! Ruben was telling all his friends to go get checked.”

But to also bring smile to Ruben’s face

“Those prayer warriors! If it weren’t for them… it’s what got us through this journey.”

Pancreatic cancer accounts for about 3% of all cancers in the U.S. and about 7% of all cancer deaths.

Blood work, endoscopic ultrasound, or MRI could help detect pancreatic cancer.

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