Runner Agostino Buono

Agostino Buono describes some of the many special things he remembers about his father. “I remember his smile, and how walking downtown was impossible because he had so many friends and acquaintances who were stopping us every five minutes to say hello.  I remember his way of making jokes and being part of the fun. I remember his sense of family. We are Italians and you can imagine how family is important for us. But, to him, family was sacred. There was nothing more important than family. I can actually say that he was one of those persons who brings the family together.”

The Buono Family
The Buono Family

Agostino Buono is an Italian veterinarian who came to the United States to pursue his PhD at Texas A & M University. Not long after his arrival at school, Ago’s father, Mario, was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. He was only 56 years old. Because Ago has a background in medicine, he researched the disease and its treatments thoroughly. As he looked at the sobering statistics, he understood the difficult road his father faced. Ago felt the need to be strong for his family. When they asked questions, he tried to be positive so that he could protect them. Ago kept his deep worries and fears to himself as he tried to lift his family’s spirits. “Sometimes I had to lie to my family. I wanted to protect them,” Ago explains.

Ago Family2

Mario, who had been a government employee, held out hope for a medical breakthrough. He himself believed in the power of medical research. He and Ago both spent countless hours on the internet searching from a grain of hope. He frequently reached out to Ago, asking his opinion on various studies that were being conducted. Ago did his best to help guide his father through the maze of medical research. Together, they tried to find the best course of action for Mario to follow.

Agostino & Mario
Agostino & Mario

Initially, Mario was deemed ineligible for the Whipple surgery. After months of a strong chemotherapy regimen, the doctors believe that his metastasis had been eradicated. The family was elated when they got the news that his medical team was willing to attempt surgery to remove Mario’s pancreatic tumor. Unfortunately, when the doctors opened up Mario’s abdomen, they discovered that there were still very small lesions throughout his body. The surgery had to be aborted. Ago’s family now had to face the reality that Mario’s pancreatic cancer was terminal.

Mario & Ago
Mario & Ago

Ago was fortunate in that he was able to make multiple trips home to spend time with his father. He remembers fondly how his father was always encouraging other patients while in the chemotherapy suite. Mario smiled and extended words of encouragement to patients who seemed to be struggling physically or emotionally. Ago remembers one instance, in particular, where his father told a frightened young mother who was receiving chemo, “No worries. We are going to go through this and we are going to fight hard!”

ago brother & dad

Mario fought hard for a year and a half. He was diagnosed at the age of 56 and passed away a month after turning 58. The Buono family was devastated by the loss. Like many teenagers, Ago often felt like he and his father were at odds. Mario was the quintessential family man who took good care of his family financially. Yet, he was sometimes emotionally distant. A passionate teenaged Ago sometimes struggled to understand his father’s standoffish nature. Their different styles of relating to others caused misunderstanding and conflict. Ago says, “You can follow the steps of your parents or go straight in the opposite direction. I took my father’s life and I went in the opposite direction for a long time. I used him as my mirror. I regret lots of that.”

Their relationship started improving as Ago grew up and became more independent. Ago grew up in Southern Italy. When he moved to Bologna in Northern Italy, he felt a definite shift in how he and his father related to one another. He says, “Our relationship started to change and I could see that his confidence in me was growing, little by little. Probably it was just that the confidence in myself and my self-esteem that was growing. He gave me total control of my life and he did not make any decisions of my life. He was not rich at all, but he did all he it was possible to give me the chance to study what was my dream.”

Ago & Dad2

“I think my father was a real dreamer,” Ago continues. “Contrary to what I said before, I think that the more I wanted to be different from him, the more I see myself like my father. And today, I am totally proud of it. It took me a very long journey.”

Ago- mom & dad

Ago’s father truly believed that research would help to save his life. He spent countless hours reading through the existing research, looking for clues into a potential cure. Since Mario’s passing, Ago has become committed to helping to find a way to raise money for pancreatic cancer research. Ago has decided that he will use his newly discovered passion for running as a way to raise much-needed funding for pancreatic cancer research.

Ago began running in February 2015. He was inspired to start running while watching the LA Marathon. He saw the masses of cheering spectators at the finish line and thought, “The energy here is amazing!” He knew he wanted to run a marathon. He quickly decided to register for the Chicago Marathon. Though he set running goals for himself, Ago knew that he wanted to run for more than just his personal satisfaction. He wanted to raise money for pancreatic cancer.

Ago connected with Project Purple and immediately decided that this was the organization that aligned most closely with his own values. He has been training with a marathon team in College Station, where he attends graduate school. He enjoys running with a group under the guidance of the club coaches. Since he began running and setting goals, Ago has seen marked improvements in his own fitness level. Ago says, “I never played on a team in high school. I had a huge belly. I never saw my abs in 30 years, but now they are there!”

Ago, after finishing the Jalapena Half-Marathon
Ago, after finishing the Jalapeno Half-Marathon

It was hot and humid when Ago began his training. He says, “In the first weeks of my running, I felt something on my shoulder, like someone was pushing me. I felt my father’s presence.” Ago has run a number of races over the past months of training. With his commitment to training, he has seen his own race times drop dramatically. He is hoping to run 3:30 or better in the Chicago Marathon.


Ago’s experience with pancreatic cancer has had a tremendous impact on his life. Ago reflects, “I learned so much during my father’s illness. Hearing the statistics and prognosis changes you. It is impossible for it not to change you.” He continues, “I am amazed by the strength and power that I saw in my dad after his diagnosis. It was an important life lesson.”

Please donate to Ago’s Chicago Marathon fundraiser at his Crowdrise fundraising page:

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