In the Fall of 2012, Bill Nugent’s mother, Patricia, did something that shocked the whole family. She made an appointment to see a doctor because she just didn’t feel “right.” Bill recalls, “She had just turned 68. She never got sick. She never went to the doctor. She never, ever complained about not feeling well.” Patricia had been experiencing some bloating and abdominal swelling, but her General Practitioner was not sure what was causing her symptoms. After considering several options, the doctor recommended she be checked by an oncologist. Her doctor really was not sure if she had some form of cancer, but he had run out of other ideas. On Christmas Eve, 2012, Patricia made the trip to see the oncologist with Bill and his two sisters Melissa and Katie and received the news that she had stage IV pancreatic cancer.
Though Patricia was astounded by her diagnosis, she did not want to ruin anyone’s holiday by sharing her news. She did not like the limelight and she attempted to keep her diagnosis a secret. Immediately following the Christmas holiday, she began chemotherapy. “By New Year’s Eve, the chemo had completely knocked her out. She had an intestinal blockage. She was miserable. She was in the hospital, in the cancer ward,” Bill explains. Knowing what they knew about pancreatic cancer and seeing how badly she was affected by the treatments, Patricia’s family thought that she would not survive much longer.
Not one to give up, Patricia fought to get some of her strength back and was able to resume her chemotherapy treatments. By February, however, she was feeling very physically drained. Unfortunately, not only was the chemotherapy making her very ill, it was also ineffective. Her tumors were growing despite all the treatment. Her oncologist knew that traditional chemotherapy was not working, so he wanted to try a chemotherapy that was typically used for colon cancer. Bill says, “The new treatment was very effective for a while – the tumors shrank. Her hair grew back. She developed problems with neuropathy over time, but honestly, she did great on it.” Patricia was soon able to eat and her strength and weight stabilized. She enjoyed the summer of 2013, as she was able to travel and visit with friends. You could not see that she was sick and she certainly didn’t tell people.
To celebrate her birthday in September, 2013, the extended Nugent family decided to book a house in the Hamptons. Bill ran the Hamptons marathon for the Lustgarten Foundation. The family had a wonderful time getting away together and making memories. Crossing the finish line and getting that huge hug from Mom is one of Bill’s most treasured memories.
Patricia continued feeling well into early 2014. She was experiencing some neuropathy, but she was still well enough to sponsor Bill’s son for his first communion. Over the summer of 2014, however, things took a turn for the worse. Patricia began having trouble swallowing. The colorectal chemotherapy was no longer holding the tumors in her pancreas at bay, the cancer had progressed throughout her body. It was now in her lungs, lymph nodes, liver and peritoneum. One of the nodes in her neck had grown so large that it was causing extreme discomfort. She became very uncomfortable and could not sleep or eat. She was quickly losing weight, so her doctors decided they had to take her off of her chemotherapy and try radiation. Radiation was very hard on Patricia. She could not eat and was in excruciating pain. When they attempted to restart chemotherapy, she simply was not able to tolerate the treatments.
Bill Says Goodbye
In September, the family had planned to return to the Hamptons. Bill had once again wanted to run the marathon in his mother’s honor. Sadly, Patricia told him that she was unable to make the trip this year. On September 27th, she turned 70 with her whole family with her at Katie’s house.Shortly thereafter, she began a rapid decline. She entered hospice on October 8th and passed away October 13th, 2015. Patricia left behind her children Melissa Nugent, Katie Coyle and her son, Bill, her five thoroughly spoiled by Grandma grandchildren and with her extended family.
Patricia Nugent had worked in education and as a legal secretary. Patricia was a respected and sought-after professional in her work. She raised her three children on her own following her divorce. She was crafty and enjoyed decorating her home. Her greatest joy, however, were her five grandchildren. Bill says, “There was little that made her happier than being a grandmother.”
Patricia’s quiet strength was an inspiration to all who knew her. “She did not like to be the center of attention. She did not like to draw attention to herself,” Bill explains. When he called one of mom’s closest and oldest friends to tell her that his mom had passed away, her college friend was in shock. Though the two women had spent time together recently, she had no idea Patricia had been ill. Patricia never told her of her battle and never complained of feeling unwell.
Bill Starts Running
When Bill was 43, he was traveling a lot for work, not eating particularly healthfully and he had gained weight. He visited his doctor when he started having heart palpitations. The doctor wanted to put him on medication for various ailments, but Bill was not ready to accept that fate. Instead, he started going to the gym and walking. Gradually he shed the excess pounds. Being a goal-oriented individual, he decided to run a 5k. He did a couch-to-5k program and kept progressing from there. Now, at age 48, he is healthier and fitter than ever. When his mom became ill, he decided to run his first marathon in her honor.
Bill, an engineer for oil tanker company OSG, soon found that he really enjoyed running. He also discovered that he likes running for a cause. Two years ago, when Bill was at the expo for the New York City Half-Marathon, he visited the Project Purple booth. This year, he is joining the Project Purple team in November for the New York City Marathon. He also recently signed on to run the Napa-to-Sonoma Half-Marathon with the Project Purple team.
As Bill trains and prepares himself for the New York City Marathon, he thinks back on his mother’s battle with pancreatic cancer. “If I go back and look through the first couple of months, I think about how you hear that diagnosis and you know what it means. That is on your shoulders and in your head. There was a horrible state of that first two-and-a-half months where mom was just getting worse. The burden of that all just becomes heavier on your shoulders. My mom never talked about it weighing on her except for a couple of brief moments, and then she never talked about it again. I can only imagine the weight never gets any lighter. Yet with poise and humor, she played with the kids and stayed active and had fun. She took maximum advantage of the time she had. She travelled and spent time with friends. The grace she showed through all of it was remarkable. It is an indication of the strength of her character.”
Please make a tax-deductible donation to Bill’s Project Purple fundraiser at the following link: