Lee Kornhauser Preps for Tough Mudder for Dad

Lee Kornhauser first learned about the devastation that pancreatic cancer brings in 2003, when his grandmother, Shirley Kornhauser, was diagnosed with the disease. Shirley developed jaundice as her first symptom. Unfortunately, by the time her pancreatic cancer was discovered, it was already stage IV. Lee was away at college during his grandmother’s battle with the illness, but his father, Stewart, was very involved in supporting Shirley as she fought her cancer. Shirley passed away in April, 2004, just 6 months after her diagnosis at the age of 75.

A photo collage from Team Stewart
A photo collage from Team Stewart

Though Lee had never heard of pancreatic cancer before his grandmother became ill, he soon learned that this was not the first time someone in his family had been diagnosed with the illness. As it turned out, there were other relatives on his father’s side of the family who had also passed away from pancreatic cancer.

In February 2015, the Kornhauser family once again had to gear up to battle the beast. Lee’s father, Stewart, who had been so devastated by the loss of his mother, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Unlike Shirley who had some symptoms prior to diagnosis, Stewart had absolutely no indication that anything was wrong. Lee explains, “We were in New York for New Year’s Eve and Dad was fine. In January, he went in for a check-up. His kidney function numbers came back a little off. The doctor ordered more tests and found his pancreatic cancer. He had absolutely no symptoms outside of his numbers coming back as ‘off’, but his cancer was already stage IV.” Because Stewart had seen his own mother battle pancreatic cancer, he knew he was in for a big fight against devastating odds. Lee recalls, “That is why it hit him extremely hard when he got the diagnosis. After seeing what his mom went through, he felt that it was a death sentence. It was hard to get him into the fight.”

Though his diagnosis initially threw him for a loop, once Stewart committed to fighting, he was ready to engage in the battle. He began chemotherapy in February, 2015. He suffered few side effects with his first regimen, but the chemotherapy eventually stopped working. His oncologist changed his treatments in October, 2015. Unfortunately, the new treatments were extremely difficult on his body. He lost his hair and was exhausted all of the time. By May, 2016, he developed fluid in his abdomen, known as ascites. His doctor tried to remove the excess fluid, but it kept coming back. On Wednesday June 1, 2016, Stewart had his fluid drained. By Friday June 3rd, he was throwing up violently and could not keep any food down. He felt like something was pushing on his chest. By Saturday, Stewart could no longer eat or drink. Lee explains, “They were just giving him fluids and medications. He was in a lot of pain. They couldn’t get his pain to go away. His oxygen level was going down. He had three infections: double pneumonia, a urinary tract infection and sepsis. His body just shut down.” Stewart Kornhauser passed away June 7th, 2016, leaving behind his wife, Lori, and sons Lee and Eric.

Stewart worked as a manager in the telecommunications industry, but his primary focus in life was his family. Lee says, “He was a fantastic father. His number one focus was always family. My brother and I played soccer, baseball, football and karate and dad was at every single event. He spent his adult life doing whatever was necessary for my brother and me.” Stewart was the kind of man who would do whatever was necessary to help out family and friends.

Lee turns from runner to Tough Mudder

After Lee graduated from college, he took up running. He works as a teacher and found that running helped him to clear his head and alleviate his stress. Always the athlete, Lee set goals for himself. He trained for longer and longer distance races, eventually working his way up to the half-marathon. He was thrilled to have his father watch him finish his first half-marathon.

Lee finishing a race
Lee finishing a race

Eventually, Lee transitioned from road races to obstacle course runs. He quickly found that he preferred the obstacle course races to traditional running races. He explains, “It goes back to being a little kid. I enjoy getting dirty while exercising.” Lee finds obstacle course races to be both mentally and physically challenging. He also enjoys the camaraderie and teamwork involved in obstacle course races. “The entire race is based on the concept of teamwork. This is about getting people to overcome fears. The draw of the Tough Mudder is to see how far I can push myself past the limit I thought I had,” Lee explains.

Lee’s girlfriend, Mady, first saw that Project Purple is an official charity partner of Tough Mudder. Lee has previously raised money for pancreatic cancer research, but he was excited for the opportunity to raise funds and awareness while participating in his favorite sport. He is now training for the Tough Mudder Central Florida event. The course will be between 12 and 13 miles long and will feature over 20 obstacles.

Maddy & Lee
Maddy & Lee

Stewart, an active man who played tennis four times per week, had once talked about completing a Tough Mudder with Lee when he was healthy again. Father and son never got the chance to do their Tough Mudder. Now Lee will be honoring his father at his upcoming event, hoping to raise funding and awareness for pancreatic cancer. Lee knows that there is a genetic risk in his family and he recognizes that greater funding is desperately needed to help find a cure for this deadly form of cancer. Please help Lee reach his goals by making a tax-deductible donation to Project Purple at the following link:

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