Annie Spradley runs with Project Purple


The 2015 holiday season has been a difficult time for Annie Spradley. She became audibly emotional as she explained why this year has been tough for her. She lost her beloved mother, Karen Tully, on November 15, 2014 to pancreatic cancer. The holidays are always a difficult time for families who have lost a loved one. This year has been particularly difficult for Annie to face without her mom. Whereas last year Annie felt a sense of shock and numbness, this year the full magnitude of her loss hit her. However, Annie decided to do something constructive with her pain. On December 1, 2015, she ran the California International Marathon through the Project Purple Pioneer Program, raising money in her mother’s honor.

Annie & her friends at the finish of the California International Marathon
Annie & her friends at the finish of the California International Marathon

Karen Tully was a woman who loved her family above all else. She raised three children, Paige, Annie and Joseph. She was married to the love of her life, Michael, for 50 years. Karen worked in the high school her children attended, first as a secretary and eventually in the Vice Principal’s office. Annie remembers how everyone adored her mother, saying, “She was a second mom to my friends and to the kids at school. She was always doing things for other people. She loved being a mom and a grandma.”

In 2014, Karen became quite ill with stomach pains. She had testing in May which did not reveal any obvious problems. By June, she had become even more ill. Doctors ordered imaging of her abdomen which revealed a pancreatic mass. Annie recalls, “I kept thinking that everything would be ok because her other tests were normal.” When doctors performed a biopsy on the mass, however, Karen was diagnosed with pancreatic adenocarcinoma. In July, just one day after Karen’s birthday, she had a PET scan which showed the cancer had spread and was at stage IV.

Chemotherapy was presented as a treatment option to relieve symptoms, but the doctors offered no hope for a cure. Despite the bleak news that her medical team provided, Karen wanted desperately to live. She thought that perhaps she might be in the very small percentage of patients who live long-term. She was willing to try anything to fight her cancer. Unfortunately, she did not respond well to the chemotherapy. Karen became extremely ill from the chemotherapy regimen.

Annie’s family is extremely close. During her mom’s illness, the two spoke on the phone or saw each other nearly every day. Annie is grateful that she lived so close to her mom during her illness because she was able to attend chemotherapy and doctor’s appointments with her mom.

During the final months of her life, Karen and Michael traveled as much as she was able. The couple was very close and enjoyed spending time together. Though she was becoming increasingly sicker, Karen hung on until the couple reached their 50th wedding anniversary on November 7th, 2014. She passed away a week later on November 15th, 2014. Annie recalls the time before her mother passed away, saying, “She did not have a lot of quality of life during that time, but she had five months with the family. This cancer is just brutal.”

Karen Tully with daughter Annie Spradley
Karen Tully with daughter Annie Spradley

Annie remembers her mother’s memorial service. “We had a place that held 250 people. It was three and four people deep against the walls. There were people who could not get into the building. My mom touched a lot of lives and was kind to everybody. She had a good life and she was grateful for it. When you have that many people show up to your funeral, it is a reflection of how you lived your life.”

In recent years, two of Annie’s friends have also lost parents to pancreatic cancer. These losses affected Annie deeply and she felt that she had to do something to help make a difference in the pancreatic cancer realm. She had tried to get into the New York City Half-Marathon, but was not accepted through the lottery. She scrolled through the charities and found Project Purple. She applied for the Project Purple team and was accepted. She and her best friend Katie traveled from California to New York ad ran the race together. Though she did not get in all of the training that she had hoped to accomplish, Annie completed the half-marathon in 2 hours and 8 minutes. More importantly, she felt her mom with her the whole way.

Annie & friends celebrating their race finish.
Annie & friends celebrating their race finish.

Annie had such a wonderful experience the first time that she ran with Project Purple that she decided to sign on to run with the charity again through the Pioneer Program. In December, she ran the California International Marathon, which is her hometown race. The big challenge for Annie prior to Cal International is that she had to come back from a knee surgery. “I am blessed with amazing friends who won’t let me give up,” Annie says. Her friends trained with her and volunteered to run the whole marathon with her. On December 1, 2015, Annie completed the California International Marathon, and ran in honor of her mom. “The last six miles hurt, but it’s all good. It was very challenging. I want to do another one now as I have caught the bug,” Annie explains.

Annie Spradley CIM

Annie says, “I am ‘all in’ with Project Purple. Anything to raise awareness and funding needs to be done.” Even though pancreatic cancer took her mother from her and devastated her family, Annie believes there are reasons to be optimistic. She feels that with more research, there will be more survivors. “There is always hope and there are always miracles,” she says.
Please make a contribution to Annie’s Project Purple fundraiser and help further pancreatic cancer research.

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