Elizabeth Firth Runs for Project Purple

Elizabeth Firth’s father, Charles ‘Chuck’ Hampton is a life-long health and fitness enthusiast. He has led a very active lifestyle which emphasized running and walking for exercise. Two years ago, when Elizabeth decided to take up running, her dad was thrilled. The two shared miles together and Chuck became her biggest cheerleader and supporter. Now, as Chuck battles pancreatic cancer, Elizabeth is preparing to run the New York City Half-Marathon in his honor.

Elizabeth firth & dad

Elizabeth played recreational soccer as a kid, but never ran just for the sake of running. Two years ago, she decided to improve her fitness by joining a local running group called “First Strides”. The group was made up of women who were training for races of different distances. Elizabeth’s father’s support in those early weeks and months were instrumental in her success as a runner. Chuck often ran and walked with her and she quickly fell in love with the sport. Elizabeth put in for the New York City Marathon lottery and was accepted into the race. Just 18 months after she starting running, she lined up to start the New York City Marathon. Though he was not feeling well, her father was there to proudly watch Elizabeth finish the race.

Elizabeth running the New York City Marathon in 2014
Elizabeth running the New York City Marathon in 2014

In mid-2014, Chuck Hampton had been experiencing some vague symptoms of stomach pains and digestive problems. For several months in the latter half of 2014, he sought out the help of various medical professionals. He saw two doctors who discovered that he had some kind of metastatic cancer, but neither doctor could determine where the cancer had originated. The third oncologist he saw determined that the primary tumor was in his pancreas.  Chuck was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer in November of 2014.

Prior to his diagnosis, Chuck had commented to his family that he hoped he did not have pancreatic cancer. While Elizabeth did not know a whole lot about the illness, Chuck knew that the prognosis was not positive. When the family learned that Chuck was, in fact, facing pancreatic cancer, they were comforted and energized by the positive outlook of his oncologist. She told the family that while Chuck was not currently eligible for surgery, she hoped that chemotherapy might make surgery a possibility. Elizabeth feels that it is important for her dad and her family to be working with a doctor who gives them a sense of hope for the future.

Celebrating the Hampton's 45th wedding anniversary.
Celebrating the Hampton’s 45th wedding anniversary.

Chuck received the chemotherapy combination Gemzar/Abraxane for several months. After some time, it appeared that this chemotherapy was no longer effective. His oncologist decided to change tactics and he now receives a regimen of 5FU. The treatments are difficult and Chuck has lost a substantial amount of weight. However, he still remains as active as possible and walks with a group of friends when he is able.

Chuck Hampton with his walking group
Chuck Hampton with his walking group

While the family searched for an official diagnosis and answers, Elizabeth began doing her own research. She knew that she wanted to run and raise money for pancreatic cancer research. Her internet searches led her to Project Purple. Though she had initially considered running a full marathon for the charity, she decided that the New York City Half-marathon was her best option.

In the lead up to the New York City Marathon in 2014, Elizabeth experienced some pain in her leg. During the marathon she did not notice anything uncomfortable or unusual. However, in her first training run following the marathon, she knew something was not quite right. She checked in with her physician and soon learned that she had a hairline fracture of her femur. Elizabeth had already signed up to run the Big Sur Marathon in April, 2015. She had to drop down to the ten-mile option to allow her fracture to heal.

This past fall, Elizabeth has resumed her regular training. However, she knows that she needs to give her body more time to build back up to the demands of training for a full marathon. She felt that the New York City Half-Marathon would be the optimal race for her at this time. Elizabeth’s entire family lives in Pennsylvania in close proximity to New York City. Her father plans to come watch her finish the race.

Elizabeth wanted to run the New York City Half-Marathon with Project Purple because she wanted to do something positive to honor her father. The two have always had a close relationship and she wanted to show him how much he means to her. “He is one of my best friends,” Elizabeth explains. “What stands out for me when I think about him is the time we have spent doing things together. Our family is the top priority in his life. He is extremely positive. He was a hero to all of us before he had cancer, but he is a different kind of hero now.”

Elizabeth & Chuck on her wedding day.
Elizabeth & Chuck on her wedding day.

Chuck was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer over a year ago. He continues to beat the odds every day. Elizabeth says, “We are all very thankful that he is doing as well as he is doing. I hope that seeing how well he is doing gives others hope.”

elizabeth firth & her dad at purple walk

Please make a tax deductible donation to Elizabeth’s Project Purple New York City Half-Marathon fundraiser at the link below:

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