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Purple Pansies is raising funds to support pancreatic cancer patients and families

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (Atlanta Now News at 10) -- A local nonprofit is raising awareness for one of the deadliest forms of cancer.

Hours before opening for business on Wednesday, Casa Nuova Italian Restaurant owner Maria Fundora served up coffee and conversation about Purple Pansies, her non-profit supporting pancreatic cancer patients and families.

"Purple Pansies started when I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer in 2007. It just ignited in myself a fire that I didn't want families to go through what I had been gone going through," said Fundora.

The color purple represents the pancreas, and the pansy reflects resilience and strength. Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of all cancer deaths. The National Institutes of Health says it will become the second leading killer in two years. There's also limited federal funding for research.

"I have a fire within myself to be able to help others to find clinical trials, new meds, new research to get this deadly disease in check," said Fundora.

For 15 years, the organization has also raised funds to cover the skyrocketing expenses survivors like Teona Ducre faced while battling cancer. Her medical journey started just before her daughter's birthday.

"It was March 27th of 2016. I had a horrible stomach ache that I'd had for months," said Ducre, describing his she also experienced extreme weight loss and back pain. Just a few days later, her doctor shared the scan results. "She said there is a very large mass covering your pancreas. I need you to get to a doctor immediately, a specialist," she said.

The 41-year-old single mom and special education teacher had Stage 3 pancreatic cancer and underwent aggressive chemotherapy. She beat the odds.

"Six years into remission. I'm thankful," said Ducre. "My son is 21 and my daughter just turned 19, and we sit around and we go, 'Did that really just happen,'" Ducre said.

Purple Pansies helped with her medical expenses, prescriptions, and rent. She's now a volunteer and wants to see others get the help they need.

"I was lucky. Surviving this disease should not be about luck. It should be about having treatment. It should be about having therapy options," she said.

They're inviting the public to attend their annual Pillars of Hope gala, their largest fundraiser of the year, on September 18, 2022.

"We need help. We need more awareness," said Fundora.

For details on how to support the cause, click here.

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