Brian Reeves began working as a volunteer fire fighter in 2002, with a long-term goal of becoming a professional fighter. When he started volunteering, he discovered that the physical training needed to become a firefighter was extremely challenging. He knew that if he wanted to make it as a fireman, he would have to become more physically fit. So, Brian took up running. When he went to the fire academy, he started running with the other recruits. First he ran just to be able to get through his training class. But then in 2005, he decided that he wanted to take his running to the next level. He began adding more miles to his runs and set goals to challenge himself. In 2008, Brian and his wife, Katie, ran their first marathon. They ran all 26.2 miles together.
Brian, Katie and their two children live in Connecticut. Their home is about 30 minutes away from where his mom and stepfather live. In 2012, their world was turned upside down when Brian’s stepdad, Ron Hiznay, was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. Brian knew little about the disease at the time. Brian says, “When you hear the C word, it is a reality check that brings everyone closer.” He wanted to learn all he could about pancreatic cancer, so he could help the man who had been a part of his life for more than 20 years. Brian also wanted to assist his mother, as she began navigating the role of care giver for her husband.
Brian recognized how in some ways, a cancer diagnosis can be just as difficult on family members as it is on the patient. Brian’s mom and Ron were at the point in their lives where they had been looking forward to retirement and travel. Suddenly, everything they had envisioned for this point in their lives was cast into doubt. Brian tried to remain positive to support his mother. He recalled telling his mother that their best days were still ahead of them. He was certain that they would still have time to take the vacations they had planned and to make new memories.
Ron’s pancreatic cancer was caught early enough that he was eligible for the Whipple Surgery. Following his surgery, he had chemotherapy. Ron went through a period where he was diabetic. His diabetes is now resolved, though he still continues to monitor his blood sugar levels. Otherwise, he is healthy and is currently cancer free.
A Pancreatic Cancer diagnosis is devastating for the whole family. Knowing the abysmal survival statics instantly changes the lives of those impacted by the disease. As Brian researched Pancreatic Cancer, he learned about Project Purple. Ironically, Brian had a connection to Project Purple founder, Dino Verrelli. The two had gone to the same high school, though they were not in the same grade. Brian had recently seen Dino’s name pop up on his Facebook news feed. Brian reached out to Dino and the two men talked about their shared experiences with Pancreatic Cancer. Brian wanted to help others who had been affected by this disease, so he joined the 2014 Project Purple New York City half-marathon team.
By 2014, Brian had been running and racing for quite some time. He has set a goal of running a half-marathon or full marathon in all 50 states. So far, he has ten states under his belt. As Brian and Katie would soon discover, running for a charity is a different experience than just running for your own personal goals. Brian and Katie raised nearly $2800 for Project Purple. Raising money for a cause they believe deeply in and being part of the team was meaningful and special for both of them.
The Reeves made the New York City Half-Marathon into a family event. They brought their children, as well as Judy and Ron. The night before the race, Brian’s family took in the sights and sounds of the city. That evening, Dino asked Brian, “What are your goals?” Brian wanted to run a personal record (PR) at the race. Running around New York City, even in the cold, windy weather, proved to be an uplifting experience for Brian. Seeing Dino cheering him on as he approached Times Square brought a smile to his face. Brian ended up missing his PR by a couple of minutes, but he finished the race with a smile on his face anyway. The energy of New York City, being part of the team and running for a cause was such a gratifying experience that PRs suddenly meant little to Brian.
The team gathering after the race was fun and emotional experience for everyone. They got to meet other families who had been impacted by Pancreatic Cancer. Brian and his family enjoyed making new friends as they connected with the other Project Purple families.
Brian Reeves had such a fulfilling experience in New York that he plans to come to Lincoln, Nebraska to run as part of the Project Purple team in May 2015. The side benefit is that he can add another state in his quest to run a race in all 50 states. Even though Brian’s stepfather continues to be free of Pancreatic Cancer, his family has not forgotten the fear and uncertainty that come along with hearing the diagnosis. With a 5 year survival rate of only 6%, Brian knows that his family has been extraordinarily fortunate so far. They have not forgotten that most people touched by Pancreatic Cancer are not so lucky. This is why Brian Reeves remains committed to raising money and awareness for Pancreatic Cancer as part of the Project Purple team.
Check out Brian’s Crowdrise page and support his efforts to beat Pancreatic Cancer!