Elizabeth Ingham was in middle school when her father, John, first became ill. With John’s flexible work schedule through much of Elizabeth’s childhood, the two shared a special bond. “I know people often say that your parents are your heroes, but he really was mine. Growing up, my mom worked full-time and my dad was my caretaker. A lot of times it was just him and I.” John and his wife, Roberta, did their best to shield Elizabeth from John’s illness. “So much went on in the background that I did not know about,” Elizabeth explains. “It wasn’t until he had to go in for surgery I realized how serious it was.”
John was in and out of the hospital in 2004. He was losing weight and experiencing abdominal pain. Doctors attempted to provide some pain relief by placing stents in his bile duct. Finally, a tumor was discovered in John’s pancreas and aggressive treatment was recommended. In August 2005, he went in for a Whipple procedure, whereby the head of his pancreas was removed. The Whipple is a very difficult surgery and the recovery process is often long and arduous. When John left the hospital, his weight had dropped to 132 lbs at 6 feet tall. John started chemotherapy shortly after going home. Even though he was sick from the chemo, he loved to eat and he regained the lost weight quickly.
In 2008, John started a new chemotherapy protocol. This new treatment regimen made him very sick and he was unable to continue on the treatment for long. Testing showed that his cancer had now spread to his liver, lungs, brain and bones. Doctors tried radiation treatments with the hopes of controlling his pain. In 2009, he was moved into hospice so that he could be kept comfortable for the final weeks of his life.
John Ingham was a quiet, introspective man with a thirst for knowledge. Elizabeth says, “He was not the most social person, but he had a heart of gold. Not a lot of people got to see the kind of person that he was. He had so many passions and was so smart. He read every history book on the planet. He taught himself about finance and investing. He loved to garden. He had so many passions in his life. He had a real love of learning. He was always trying to make himself a better person.”
Even though her dad was sick for much of her adolescence, Elizabeth remembers how he made a point to continue being present and active in her life. “He came to all of my games and events, even if he wasn’t feeling well. Even if he just stood in the background, I knew he was there. My parents did everything in their power to keep my life as normal as possible.”
John was a loving and active father throughout his illness. Nevertheless, having a father with a terminal illness impacted Elizabeth’s childhood. “Growing up with a dad who was sick, especially my dad, who was such a private person, was emotionally challenging, both at home and when I was away from home. I did not talk about his illness with my friends. I tried not to discuss it outside of my home. Obviously, it was a big part of my life, but I tried to be as normal as possible in high school. There came a point where I had to stop having friends over because my dad was sick. We had to move my dad’s bed into the living room, and I did not know how to explain that to my friends.” Eventually, Elizabeth found that she had to tell her friends what was happening. “When he went into hospice, I called my best friend and said, ‘It is time to let people know what is happening.’ It was not that I was embarrassed. It was just a very private matter that I kept close to my heart. Once word of my dad’s illness came out, that presented a whole new challenge for me.”
Elizabeth was a young adult when she lost her father and she suddenly found herself emotionally adrift. “I did not know how I was supposed to go on living the same life, after it had been flipped upside down. In my case, it was like I started a new life. It was like a rebirth of trying to figure out how to live my life without him there. This is when running came into play.”
Elizabeth found solace in her running. She enjoyed the solitude of being out pounding the pavement. It gave her a chance to reflect and think about her father and her life. Elizabeth had run 3 half-marathons when she decided that maybe it was time to make her running about something greater than herself. She was planning to run the Toronto Half-Marathon with some friends when she googled “running” and “pancreatic cancer” and discovered Project Purple. Through Project Purple’s Pioneer Program, Elizabeth was able to set up a fundraiser for the event of her choice. Though she has always been a very private person, Elizabeth wrote about her father for her Crowdrise fundraising page. She has been surprised to find that taking her story public has been a positive experience. “I am so overwhelmed by the responses and donations I have received. There is definitely something more important and special about running with a charity.”
Elizabeth is trying to find some positives through the loss of her father. “It is a horrific situation. You can get bogged down in the misery or you can rise about it and see how you can become a better person. That is what I am trying to do with the race and the fundraising.” She wants people to remember her dad as she remembers him. “He was so brave and so loved,” She explains. “I miss him every day. Without fail, there is a moment I think of him, whether in sadness or in joy. I wish he was here to share my life.”
Please support Elizabeth’s journey to honor her father by making a tax deductible donation to her Project Purple fundraiser: https://www.crowdrise.com/irunforprojectpurple/fundraiser/elizabethinghamprojectpurple