I will never forget the first time I heard Laurie MacCaskill speak. Her remarks were moving, inspirational, funny and gracious. The whole room was captivated. Laurie has lived an exciting and engaging life of adventure, travel, business and philanthropy. But her life has also taken her to the depths of despair as a result of a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of just 9%. Laurie knows she is one of the lucky few to still be alive and sees her diagnosis as a gift. Over the many, many years I have known Laurie, she has spoken countless times to our staff, volunteers and donors, corporate supporters and members of the research community. Within minutes, the audience is taken from laughter to tears to awe as she tells her story of hope and determination to live her life with a positive spirit and attitude. Laurie is a gift to everyone who has the incredible opportunity to hear her speak. I can’t say enough about her innate style to engage and transform an audience. You will leave the experience a better person for having known and heard her tell her story.
Julie Fleshman, Diane Borrison and Laurie MacCaskill
I hope you hear enough that you are an amazing and inspiring woman who has the unique ability to capture the imagination of any audience. You are also very resilient and tough, but what makes you so unique is your wonderfully calm, engaging and articulate interface. It makes people want to hear your wisdom and be around you.
Laurie’s presentation is as fabulous as I remembered. Thank you again, Laurie for facing your future with tremendous courage. You are an inspiration.
It was a great pleasure meeting you in Philadelphia and I am so glad your were part of our panel. I hope you’ll do more of them, because your comments grounded the conversation so beautifully, and industry really needs to hear stories and perspectives like yours!
Channing J. Der, PhD, Laurie MacCaskill, Adrienne D. Cox, PhD
For me you are the rock star of advocacy for pancreatic cancer research. The passion you bring to making a difference, the fierce determination and fight that you bring to the game, is very inspirational to us researchers. You have represented everything that has inspired me as a cancer researcher. The way that I now think about my research, it is not just to unravel the scientific mysteries of the cancer cell, but to apply that knowledge to make an impact in the clinic, to not let down the families who are desperately counting on us to make the breakthroughs. That you faced pancreatic cancer, refused to accept defeat, challenged it head on, and beat it, has transformed me, has motivated me to up my game.
First, through a stroke of bad luck you became part of a club that no one wants to belong but then fate intervened and you got a very special “upgrade” – that of a long term survivor. Many, many patients in your position would have counted their blessings, thanked the Good Lord, and then sat on their haunches enjoying life. Instead you embraced the opportunity fate has given you and turned it into a crusade against the disease. The time, effort and zeal you have devoted to in fighting for more research dollars and advances in pancreatic cancer are unsurpassed. Laurie, you are lucky to be amongst a select few who are long term survivors from this disease, but we scientists and clinicians are even luckier to have you around and keep our feet to the fire so we never ever forget the ultimate goal of doubling pancreatic cancer survival for ALL patients. I was speaking to an audience of patients and caregivers about the state of the science in pancreatic cancer. Upon exiting the stage I remember this gorgeous lady walking to me, giving me her card, and saying: “I want you to study me because I am a freak.”Excuse me?” I said, clearly perplexed. Then you told me that you had survived odds that no one thought was possible, and that I should do everything possible with your tissues to figure out why you had survived so long – and this is where your incredible selflessness becomes obvious – so that we could use that knowledge for OTHER patients. I will never forget that moment.
Meeting you in person is the highlight of my BIO and of my life. There are so many Japanese patients and Japanese people who can learn from you.
Thank you, Laurie, for your passionate devotion in helping others keep their spirit of hope alive.
Thank you for taking the time and for exercising what we in Shanti called “Your Compassionate Presence.” Your generosity is heartfelt. Congratulations on your recovery and for all the wonderful work you are doing. Your story was brilliant and inspiring.
It was lovely meeting you at this amazing dinner! We’re all in awe of what of you do and are grateful for the gifts you give to all!