"Most optimistic, beautiful person I've ever known,” said Katherine Dawson, describing her best friend while holding her picture. "Never, ever, ever gave up.”

Her best friend, Sue Stubbs, died of pancreatic cancer last September.

"She fought it and went a lot further than expected,” said Dawson. “Four and a half years."

Dawson was one of more than 700 participating in "PurpleStride Austin."

The 5K raises awareness and funds to fight pancreatic cancer.

It is one of the toughest cancers to fight. Doctors say it has a five-year survival rate of just nine percent.

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Chair Jamie Smith said the cancer is one of the least funded.

"One of the things that really sticks out to me, is that we need more awareness and understanding of diagnosis,” said Smith.

The network said it can cause only vague symptoms, including abdominal or back pain, weight loss, jaundice and nausea.

Though the cancer is tough to beat, there are people like Meredith Clarke.

"It was a complete surprise to have it,” she said. “I had no risk factors. And to be diagnosed at 39 -- it's pretty crazy."

Her smile shows she is a pancreatic cancer survivor. She encourages everyone fighting any cancer.

"Take care of yourself,” Clarke said. “It’s OK to lean on people … It's OK to ask for help. Because all that is going to help you potentially survive the illness."

For Dawson, she said if her best friend were here, she would urge early detection.

"Because she really believed that had we been able to detect it earlier, perhaps she could have had a stronger fight,” said Dawson.

More Information |

RESOURCES for those fighting pancreatic cancer: https://www.pancan.org/facing-pancreatic-cancer/patient-services/patient-and-caregiver-services/

GET INVOLVED fighting the cancer: https://www.pancan.org/get-involved/