CUMBERLAND, R.I. (WPRI) — Most people view pancreatic cancer as a death sentence.

It’s easy to see why. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 62,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year alone, and nearly 50,000 of them will die.

But John Walmsley is living proof that with a little bit of hope, anything is possible.

After all, he survived the notoriously deadly disease himself.

Walmsley told 12 News that, when he was diagnosed with stage 2 pancreatic cancer in 2015, he knew he was in for the fight of his life.

“I knew it was a tough one,” Walmsley said of his diagnosis. “But I looked into it, found out what had to happen, and I said, ‘I’m going to fight this.'”

Despite having the odds stacked against him, Walmsley refused to give up.

“I wasn’t going to say, ‘that’s it, I’m done,'” he said. “It’s not me. I like a fight. You want me cancer? Come and get me.”

When asked whether he warned his loved ones that he might not make it, Walmsley made one thing clear.

“I never said that,” Walmsley said. “I never looked at the numbers, I just looked at me. I just looked at the fact that I believed I would fight this.”

After months of chemotherapy and radiation, he agreed to undergo a Whipple procedure at Massachusetts General Hospital. (A Whipple procedure is a complex surgery that involves removing portions of the pancreas and surrounding organs.)

While the surgery was a success, Walmsley said it took him another year or so to start feeling like himself again.

“My family and my friends were all right there for me,” he recalled. “It was an emotional time.”

Seven years later, Walmsley has dedicated his life to breaking the stigma that no one survives pancreatic cancer.

He even wrote a song about it called “Wage Hope,” which is named after the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network‘s motto.

“Everyone’s susceptible and though it is not inevitable, you’ve got to wage hope,” Walmsley sings. “Research is the answer man and folks we really, really can … It’s now that we’ve got to wage hope.”

Through the power of music, Walmsley hopes that he can inspire others who have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer to never give up.

“You can’t just think that no one survives this,” he said. “The numbers aren’t great … but you have to think about the people who do make it. We’re survivors, and we’re living our lives.”

Walmsley and his family are raising money for pancreatic cancer research by participating in PanCAN PurpleStride Rhode Island later this month. Team Walmsley is currently atop the local leaderboard with more than $20,000 raised and counting.

Anyone interested in joining Walmsley at event, which takes place annually at Goddard Memorial State Park, can register online here.

Wage Hope
By: John Walmsley


Everyone’s susceptible and though it’s not inevitable, you know you’ve got to wage hope
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network needs an answer, so it’s now that we’ve got to wage hope
Purple is the color man, to wear at PurpleStride events, you know that we’ve got to wage hope
Research is the answer man, and folks we really, really can
It’s now that we’ve got to wage hope
Patient support, clinical trials, science and doctors all need to smile
Find us the answer we’re all looking for: Pancreatic cancer no more
It’s now that we’ve got to wage hope