Krystal Fernandes (right) volunteers to give back to the cancer community.
Editor’s Note: April 18-24 is Volunteer Recognition Week, and we’re putting the spotlight on some of the invaluable Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) volunteers who really make it possible. We are grateful for their energy and enthusiasm every day.
Pancreatic cancer had never been a priority for Krystal Fernandes, mostly because it didn’t have to be. She never had a family member or friend affected by the disease.
A few years ago, the young son of Krystall’s cousin was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain tumor. His prognosis was bleak and the toddler was not given much time to live.
In Spain, where Krystall’s cousins lived, the congregation gathered behind them. They raised money so he could be treated in the United States – they even brought a player from the Manchester United football team on board.
Unfortunately, her cousin’s son passed away, but Krystal was inspired to give something back. The community of support available to the family during this time surprised her and she wanted to provide that support to others. To get involved with a cancer-related organization, Krystal went to the VolunteerMatch website and found PanCAN.
Soon after, Krystal became chairman of PanCAN’s San Francisco Affiliate of Volunteers. She will be attending her sixth PurpleStride San Francisco event this June.
Krystal is a dedicated PanCAN volunteer. There were about 12 members when she first joined the subsidiary, but after six months it was thanks to Krystal and someone else. It stayed that way for part of the time.
“San Francisco is a temporary city – a lot of people are moving,” said Krystal. “It wasn’t for lack of passion.”
Today the San Francisco affiliate is experiencing a renaissance, said Krystal. You will build a robust partnership with new members.
Krystal wants more people to get involved. It emphasizes the urgency of the disease to those it encounters. “A 5-year survival rate of 10% is just unacceptable,” said Krystal.
“I also think people are intimidated by the obligation to volunteer, especially when they are given the title of chairman. But they shouldn’t be. We’re a team, and if you can’t do something, there is always someone to step in. “
If you think about the past six years, Krystal sees an increase in awareness of the disease.
“If I wear my PurpleStride t-shirts, people will stop me,” said Krystal. “More and more people are realizing how severe this disease is and how desperate the situation is.
“And while it seems too slow, research on pancreatic cancer has increased dramatically over the past six years.”
She credits an increase in research funding for this growth and notes that one of the things she likes most about PanCAN is that research is only part of the work that is being done to fight the disease.
“Donating is important because it makes things move faster,” said Krystal. “There will most likely never be total federal funding, so we need places like PanCAN to get the job done. And PanCAN does so much more than just fund research. They have amazing programs like Patient Services that I love. “
Krystal sees great potential in the Bay Area and looks forward to leveraging it. “There are so many options here that I know we can raise funds. And now that we have the human resource as part of our thriving partner, we need to make more meaningful connections and create a community for the people who need them. “
When asked whether PanCAN has changed them at all, Krystal gives a resounding “yes”.
“PanCAN gave me more empathy for people going through things like this. It changed my life. “
Krystal proves you don’t have to be a direct link with pancreatic cancer to be involved and help. She believes in the ripple effect her volunteering creates.
“I realize that pancreatic cancer isn’t the only terrible disease, but it’s good to remember that whatever we do about pancreatic cancer – these scientific discoveries – can likely be used for other cancers.”
Join the movement to create a better future for pancreatic cancer patients. Take part today.