Emily Slesinger runs with Project Purple

Emily Slesinger first fell in love with running while she was still a high school student. She has run countless races thus far and she is only in her early 20s. Pancreatic cancer touched her family twice with devastating results both times. Emily knew she had to do something to wage war against the disease that took two beloved family members from her. Emily decided to use her passion for running to do something about it. She is now preparing to run the New York City Half-Marathon with the Project Purple team.

Emily's family in their Packer's gear.
Emily’s family at a Packer’s game.

There are lots of ways that fathers and daughters find time to bond, but not many of them include running long distances. While Emily was in high school, she and her father decided that they would spend time together while training to run a half-marathon. “This is where my obsession with running started,” Emily explains. When she went off to college, she kept up with her running, going so far as to help a friend train for her first half-marathon. Emily and her friend had so much fun at that first half-marathon together that they continued to train and race. Emily’s weekly long runs became a welcome ritual in her life. She built up her distance over time and ran her first full marathon, the San Diego Rock ‘N’ Roll in 2015. “It was probably one of the hardest things I have done in my life,” Emily says. “After running for four-and-a-half hours, I had a huge rush of adrenaline when I finished!”

Emily running her first marathon.
Emily running her first marathon.

More recently, Emily’s running has become reinvigorated by a new sense of purpose. Her family’s two devastating experiences with pancreatic cancer have given Emily new reasons to commit to running.In 2006, when Emily was only a young teen, her grandmother, Doris, was diag nosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. At the time, young Emily did not fully grasp the significance of the diagnosis. Emily says, “Her favorite color was purple, which she always pronounced as ‘poy-ple’. She was into knitting and sewing and she taught me to sew. She was a brilliant woman and was one of the first women to be a department head at the University of Wisconsin. She had a PhD. in Sociology. She was a pioneer and a role model.” As Emily applies to graduate programs in marine biology, she appreciates how women like Grandma Doris paved the way for today’s aspiring female academics.

Grandma Doris with Emily
Grandma Doris with Emily

In May, 2015, Emily’s Uncle David was diagnosed with Stage III pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately, his tumor was determined to be inoperable. His medical team started him on chemotherapy in hopes that they could shrink his tumor enough for surgery. Treatment proved to be taxing on David’s body. He developed issues with his kidneys and his weight plummeted. His doctors sought out a clinical trial for David, but his health declined too rapidly. David passed away at the age of 58 in November, 2015. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Emily's Uncle David
Emily’s Uncle David

David’s battle inspired Emily to want to fight back against pancreatic cancer. Over the summer of 2015, as she watched him fight, Emily searched for a pancreatic cancer charity. Emily attended college in southern California. She now lives and runs in the northern California area. She has seen lots of charities at local races and she thought running with a charity might be a fun way to give back to others. She found Project Purple and soon signed on to be a part of the New York City Half-Marathon team.

Because it appears that there may be a genetic component to the pancreatic cancer that runs in her family, Emily was initially concerned that other family members could be diagnosed with the illness. That fear of possibly seeing another family diagnosed with pancreatic cancer was a driving force behind her joining the Project Purple team. Emily also realizes that her family is certainly not the only one to be impacted by pancreatic cancer. She wants to run to help other families who are facing this extremely difficult disease.

Emily with her father, Paul, brother Tom and Grandma Doris
Emily with her father, Paul, brother Tom and Grandma Doris

Emily is very pleased to be a part of a charity team. Thus far, the experience has been fun for her. She looks forward to meeting her whole team in person in March. As a former soccer player, she enjoyed being part of a team growing up. Running with Project Purple enables her to be enjoy the camaraderie that comes with being a part of a team of runners.The competitive athlete in her wants to beat her previous half-marathon PR. Emily says, “Mostly, I want to focus on how lucky I am that I am healthy enough to push through the hard part of the race.”

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