Seven years ago, Alexis Kalargheros’s world was turned upside-down when her 33-year-old uncle Chris Kalargheros was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Uncle Chris was a fixture in Alexis’s house. He visited Alexis and her grandparents, who lived across the street, nearly every day. “I was only 12 when he was diagnosed, so I did not have any idea how serious the disease was,” Alexis recalls. Her parents tried to protect her by not sharing too many details with her. In reality, Chris had been told that he only had six months to live.
As Chris’s disease progressed, Alexis’s parents could no longer hide the truth from her. They finally admitted that the situation was serious. After battling his illness for two years, Chris missed so much time from work that he had to go out on medical disability from his job as an accountant at Merrill Lynch. He had times where he felt well, but he was often in the hospital or at doctor’s appointments. There were times when Alexis barely saw her father because he was at the hospital, by Chris’s side, so frequently. The cancer traveled to Chris’s liver and later, to his pituitary gland in his brain. The doctors attempted to do surgery to remove the tumor in his brain, but the procedure was unsuccessful. Chris fought his pancreatic cancer for six years. He spent his final weeks in hospice care at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA.
Chris Kalargheros was only 39-years-old when he passed away in May, 2014. He left behind his wife, Liz, and their twins, Andy and Effie, as well as a large extended family. Alexis was very close to her uncle and watching him battle so hard and so long affected her deeply. She suffered from post-traumatic stress following his death. “Chris was a good balance of being sarcastic and funny. He could be kind and loving but he would also be making fun of you at the same time. He was funny and made everyone’s day. Even when he was in a lot of pain, he made it into a big joke. He inspired me because he was so strong. He never gave up until the very end.”
Alexis has become very involved in raising awareness for pancreatic cancer as a part of her own healing process. Over the past two years, she, her family and friends have raised $50,000 for pancreatic cancer research. Chris’s experience with pancreatic cancer has even impacted her career choices. Alexis is currently a college student who is studying to be a nurse. Her ultimate goal is to become a pediatric oncology nurse at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. Her uncle’s battle inspired her to want to work with other cancer patients and their families.
Although Alexis is interested in helping those with any kinds of cancers, she feels like pancreatic cancer needs more attention and funding than it currently receives. She believes that it lacks the awareness and funding of other cancers. “My goal is to see more focus on pancreatic cancer because it is such a terrible illness. I want to see more attention towards pancreatic cancer research,” she explains.
Alexis, who is currently a sophomore, started running as a way to relieve stress and clear her mind when she started college. Though she typically runs shorter distances, she became intrigued with the idea of running a half-marathon. More specifically, she was interested in running the New York City Half-Marathon. She was seeking entrance through a charity when she found Project Purple. She knew instantly she wanted to run with Project Purple and signed up for the team right away. “I used to think that distance runners were crazy, but this year something ignited in me. I don’t know if it is because I saw Project Purple or what, but I decided to start training for the half-marathon. This motivation that I have is driving me to strive for a goal that I never thought I would achieve. I hated running when I was younger, but I am very determined. I want to make my uncle proud.” A highly-motivated young woman, Alexis wants to use her energy, passion and enthusiasm to help raise funding and awareness for pancreatic cancer through her running.
With the New York City Half-Marathon right around the corner, Alexis is feeling excited and ready to run her race. Alexis is hoping that by sharing her and her uncle’s story that she will inspire others to take action in the fight against pancreatic cancer. “Running with Project Purple means the world to me. I do everything I can to benefit pancreatic cancer awareness. Training to run the half-marathon is touching my heart in a way that I never thought it would. I am running to make my uncle proud,” Alexis explains.
Please make a contribution to Alexis’s Project Purple fundraising campaign at the following link: