Chrissy Elmazi runs the NYC Half-Marathon

Chrissy Elmazi, an avid CrossFit enthusiast, has not run a half-marathon since 2010. In fact, she says, “I don’t really like running all that much.” Yet Chrissy is signed up to run the New York City Half-Marathon in just two months with the Project Purple team. Chrissy connected with Project Purple at a time when her family was waging war against pancreatic cancer. “Project Purple found me,” Chrissy explains. A common love of CrossFit brought Project Purple founder Dino Verrelli and Chrissy Elmazi together. Their bond inspired Chrissy to tackle a second half-marathon, this time for a cause she cares about deeply.  Chrissy is running the New York City Half-Marathon in honor of her mother, Pamela Morey, who she lost to pancreatic cancer.

Chrissy & her mother, Pam, at a chemotherapy appointment.
Chrissy & her mother, Pam, at a chemotherapy appointment.

Chrissy started running in 2006 as a means to improve her health and fitness. In 2008, she ran her first half-marathon and she followed up with a full marathon in 2009. In 2010, the Connecticut resident ran the New York City Half-Marathon for the first time. While she had fun at the races, she never really fully fell in love with running. In 2011, Chrissy decided to give CrossFit a try. She quickly fell in love with the sport. She loved it so much, in fact, that she purchased the CrossFit gym where she had been a member, CrossFit Reload.

CrossFit Reload and CrossFit Bethany have a friendly competition to benefit Project Purple.
CrossFit Reload and CrossFit Bethany have a friendly competition to benefit Project Purple.

Chrissy was embarking upon an exciting new career path as the owner of her CrossFit gym when her world was suddenly changed forever. In January, 2014, her mother, Pam, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. This was not Chrissy’s family’s first experience with pancreatic cancer. In fact, her grandfather and her aunt had both passed away from the disease. The family had a clear understanding of the deadly nature of pancreatic cancer.

Pam had experienced back pain for many years that had gone undiagnosed. Her cancer was ultimately discovered somewhat accidentally. Pam took Methotrexate for her Rheumatoid Arthritis. When her liver enzymes became elevated, her doctors believed the Methotrexate to be the source of the problem. Her doctors took her off the drug, but when she was re-checked a few months later, her numbers were still elevated. Concerned, her doctors searched for answers. Imaging revealed that the duct to her gallbladder had collapsed due to a tumor blockage.

Initially, there was much to be optimistic about. Chrissy’s mom was told that she was a candidate for the Whipple surgery. When the surgeon opened her up, however, she discovered that her cancer had spread beyond what imaging had indicated. Cancer was present in her lymph nodes and in critical blood vessels. The surgeon knew she would not be able to remove all of the cancer cells, so the surgery was aborted. In March, 2016, on her wedding anniversary, Pam began chemotherapy.

Pam at a chemo appointment.
Pam at a chemo appointment.

Pam remained on a three-weeks-on, one-week-off chemotherapy regimen for months. The chemotherapy took its toll on her body over time. She ended up having a heart attack due to the overwhelming physical stress of the cancer and the treatment. Chrissy recalls, “My mom had been doing well but then she fell and broke a vertebrae. She had more compression fractures of her spine. She was in pain and was carrying herself differently when she moved. They moved her to a rehabilitation facility after her cardiac care.  She spent the last two weeks of her life in hospice.” Pam left behind her husband of 61 years, David, her daughters, Chrissy and Karen and their husbands, and her three beloved grandchildren.

Pam loved going to watch the Yankees play.
Pam loved going to watch the Yankees play.


Pam meant the world to her family. At her memorial service, Chrissy gave a eulogy where she enumerated many of the reasons why her mom was such an important figure in her life. She said, in part, “She showed me what it meant to be silly and kind and thoughtful. She had to be the most thoughtful person I know. Every gift had a purpose – whether you knew it or not. She showed me what it truly means to be brave, to be a fighter, a hero, to never give up. But most of all, she showed me what it means to love. Pure, unadulterated, undying love. And for that, I will be forever thankful. I love you mom, with all my heart and miss you terribly.”

Chrissy was deeply inspired by how hard her mom fought. “It was 20 months from the time of her diagnosis to when she passed. For a 76-year-old woman, she really held her own through the treatment process. I give credit to her doctors at Columbia. They were amazing.” Still, it is painful for Chrissy when she thinks about how her mother’s life could have possibly been saved had she been diagnosed earlier. “The doctor who did her surgery thought that the cancer had been there for a long time,” Chrissy explains. “I don’t think mom was surprised when she was diagnosed. She had pain in her mid-back region for probably ten years. She had smoked as a kid growing up in England and was afraid that she had lung cancer. They did all kinds of X-rays and all sorts of lung studies and found nothing. No one ever checked her pancreas.”

Pam was thrilled to get to meet Mariano Rivera
Pam was thrilled to get to meet Mariano Rivera

Sometimes the universe works in mysterious ways to bring people with a shared passion together. In 2014, Chrissy reached out to another CrossFit Gym in Connecticut, CrossFit Bethany, and began organizing some friendly and fun competitions between the two gyms. In November of 2014, Chrissy’s sister, Karen, happened to see a Project Purple photo on Facebook. She sent it to Chrissy and Chrissy used it as her Facebook Profile picture. Chrissy had become friends with some of the members of CrossFit Bethany. One of them passed along her information to Dino Verrelli, and he reached out to Chrissy. The two became fast friends as they both fought back against pancreatic cancer.

In 2015, Chrissy gathered a group of friends and took her mom to the Project Purple race Maria’s run. At the race, Dino gave Pam a gift bag and made her a special guest of honor. She brought the Project Purple blanket he gave her to every chemo treatment. Dino’s kindness left a big impression on Pam and on Chrissy.

Chrissy & mom at Marie's run

Chrissy had not forgotten the kindness when she saw a link come up on Facebook for the Project Purple New York City Half-Marathon team. Though running is not her first love, Chrissy says, “Training for the race gives me something to focus on. It helps Project Purple and New York City was my mom’s favorite race.” Though she knows the training will be challenging, Chrissy is looking forward to honoring her mother. “Mom was always so supportive of everything I did. She would be very excited to know that I could help Project Purple. I saw what the chemo did to her and it was just horrible. You just hope that the researchers continue to push so that we can stop pancreatic cancer.”

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