Brenda Bodie, an Aiken native and teacher, passed away from pancreatic cancer 10 years ago. Her best friend, Marie Durrett, is carrying on the fight against pancreatic cancer in her honor by raising awareness about the disease in Aiken County.

Durrett formed Brenda's Angels the same year the group's namesake passed away. The organization is a nonprofit that seeks to educate the community about the warning signs of pancreatic cancer and raise funds for patients undergoing treatment for the disease in Aiken County.

Lisa Adams, a committee member of Brenda's Angels' Farm to Table event, said Bodie's background as a teacher was the reason behind her request for awareness.

"She said, 'We're educators and that's what we do – we teach,'" said Adams. "'I want you (Durrett) to educate the community about the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer.'"

Pancreatic cancer is relatively rare, but its survival rate is low – less than 10% – and it is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, according to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Many of its symptoms (back pain, loss of appetite, weight loss) can often be confused for other illnesses, and patients often have to request tests for the cancer to be performed.

By the time most patients realize they have pancreatic cancer, they are already in the disease's later stages, according to the American Cancer Society. Less than 8% of patients will survive five years after being diagnosed.

That's why Brenda's Angels believes awareness of the disease is so important.

"A lot of people make promises to families and loved ones on the death bed, but her (Durrett's) commitment to that promise has been above and beyond," Adams said. "She started out just doing events in November but now we do events throughout the year."

Brenda's Angels also holds a variety of fundraising events throughout the year so they can send monthly stipends to pancreatic cancer patients in Aiken County to help offset cost of living during treatment.

The group will hold one of its fundraisers on Wednesday. The Farm to Table event is a fundraising dinner that will serve fresh, locally grown food. Proceeds from ticket sales and sponsorships go toward Brenda's Angels. 

Adams said the event is similar to One Table in the sense that everyone sits together in a community atmosphere. 

Farm to Table will be held at 6 p.m. at Newberry Hall. For more information or to purchase tickets, call Ron Reynolds at 803-522-5441.

Kristina Rackley is a general assignment reporter with the Aiken Standard.