When Debbie Feldman was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, she was extremely optimistic that she would beat the disease. Her daughter, Paula Goldberg, recalls, “She would say, ‘The doctors will glue me up!’ She was such a fighter. Running for Project Purple lets me keep fighting for her.” Paula and her daughter, RL, are now training to run the New York City Marathon with the Project Purple team in Debbie’s honor.
Debbie Feldman married her high school sweetheart, Sam Feldman. The couple lovingly raised their three children, Arnold, Paula and Marc, together. Debbie adored and doted on her seven grandchildren. She worked as a nurse and then a nurse educator for much of her career, before becoming an educational consultant to the Maryland Board of Nursing. In her spare time, Debbie created prize-winning needlepoint.
Debbie and Sam loved to travel and after their retirement, they traveled to Turkey, Brazil, Chile and Italy. Debbie loved learning about different cultures and countries around the world. Paula says, “She always wanted to go to Botswana. I’m sad she didn’t get a chance.”
In the spring of 2016, Debbie was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer. Because she had also had an autoimmune disease, her subtle symptoms, such as back pain, were missed. Debbie developed a blocked biliary duct which required surgical insertion of a stent to open. During this time, her cancer was discovered. She was waiting to see an oncologist when she passed away on April 5th, 2016, just weeks after her cancer was discovered.
Paula describes her mother as a magnificent and generous woman. She adds, “When I think of my mom I think of someone compassionate and wise, someone who always spoke her mind and was never mean. I think of someone who loved to give and create and share. Someone who loved her family immensely. She was a remarkable cook and loved hosting big dinners for her family. She was always there to talk, to celebrate, and to help me through difficult times. She was so loved. She was my mom.”
Paula followed in her mother’s footsteps by becoming a registered nurse. She is a lifelong athlete who enjoys swimming, biking and running in her spare time. While she mainly focuses on running half-marathons and competing in triathlons, she has run two full marathons. Her daughter, RL, is a graduate student at Princeton University where she studies English with a focus on Queer Theory. RL has not been as competitive a runner as her mother, but she does enjoy running. She explains, “I’m not quite a lifelong runner like my mom. I ran the Boston marathon while doing my undergrad at Harvard and that was a wonderful challenge. I’m excited to run another! Otherwise, I tend to run pretty casually just to stay fit and relax after a day of reading.”
Paula Discovers Project Purple
Paula first discovered Project Purple when she was researching pancreatic cancer after her mother’s diagnosis. Shortly after her mom passed away, she and RL decided that they would run the New York City Marathon as part of the Project Purple team. “I know how proud she was of me and we thought that running for Project Purple would be a good way of raising awareness and honoring my mom,” Paula says.
While Paula lives and works in South Florida, her three children all reside in the Northeast. RL is in New Jersey, son Joshua attends Brandeis in Massachusetts, and son Jacob lives and works in New York City. Paula and RL decided that the New York City Marathon would be the perfect race for them as it would allow the family to spend time together following the race.
Paula & RL Run for a Purpose
As the mother-daughter duo has engaged in their fundraising campaign, they have learned that pancreatic cancer is not as rare as one might think. RL says, “One thing I learned while fundraising is how many people that I know and love have been affected by pancreatic cancer. So many dear friends have lost loved ones and have, in donating to our fundraising page, told me stories about the family and friends they’ve lost. It is an honor to run for these people, too.”
As summer turns to fall, Paula and RL will be logging their miles as they prepare for one of the premier marathons in the world. As they train, they will remember the battle Debbie waged for her own life. They will run for her and for their friends’ loved ones who also lost their lives to this disease. Hopefully, in time, research will make gains so that no family will experience what theirs has gone through.
Please make a tax-deductible donation to Paula and RL’s Project Purple New York City Marathon fundraiser at the following link: