Carolyn Praught stopped by her parents’ house for the night following a music festival in a neighboring town. She had been living on her own for a short period of time, and had decided that she wanted to check in with her family. When she arrived at her parents’ place, her mom said, “Dad is sick.” Carolyn had no idea at that point in time, but within a couple of weeks, her entire family’s world would be changed forever.
Carolyn’s father, Joe Praught, was a healthy man. He had some orthopedic problems, and had previously had back and shoulder surgeries, but otherwise had no health issues. However, Joe had recently become jaundiced. He also experienced some stomach pain and had recently lost a considerable amount of weight. His doctor had ordered a CT scan which revealed a tumor in his pancreas. Joe received the news that he had Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer. Carolyn was mortified when she learned about her father’s grim prognosis.
The Praught family was told that Joe would likely have four to six months to live. Carolyn was due to travel on a two-week business trip. It was Father’s Day and Joe was in the hospital. Carolyn asked him if she should stay home to be with him. Joe was going to start palliative chemotherapy, with the goal of keeping him comfortable. He told Carolyn to go on her trip, adding, “Nothing is going to happen, I’ll be here when you get back.” Joe thought that if Carolyn was busy with her friends and co-workers, she would be happy. Carolyn honored her father’s wishes and left on her business trip.
On the second week of her trip, Carolyn got a phone call from her sister asking her to please come home right away. Joe had experienced a massive stroke and the family did not know how much longer he would survive. Carolyn came back home the very next day and went straight from the airport to the hospital. Her dad was alive but not responsive, and passed away later that afternoon. Joe Praught had survived only two weeks from his initial diagnosis of Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer. Carolyn explains the devastation she felt, “We thought that we had four to six months with my dad and even that was taken away. It was such a shock.”
The Praught family was astounded by how quickly Joe became ill and succumbed to the disease. Carolyn says, “He really couldn’t eat. It was tough seeing how drastically the disease changed him so quickly.” She adds that her father was such a good-natured person and that he tried not to show how much pain he was experiencing. “He was still smiling when he was sick, even though he didn’t look like himself.”
Joe Praught was a mechanical engineer. He had travelled extensively in his job in technical sales. No matter where he was in the world, he would take time to send photographs to his family of where he was and what he was doing. It was important to Joe that he take time to stay connected to those he loved. Carolyn says, “He was the kind of guy who would drop everything and help whoever needs it. He always tried to help and do the right thing.” Joe had an adventurous side. He loved to travel and he enjoyed riding his motorcycle. He was also a very supportive father. When Carolyn was a young girl, she wanted to join the ice hockey team. Her dad got up for each 5 am practice. “He encouraged me to try whatever I wanted to do,” Carolyn explains.
Joe’s illness and passing had a tremendous impact on his family. Carolyn’s mom and dad had been married for 31 years when he passed away. Carolyn’s mom spent every moment of his final days by Joe’s bedside. After Joe’s passing, Carolyn moved back home with her mother to provide moral support. Carolyn even went through a career change. Losing her father made her re-evaluate her career path. She decided to move out of public accounting, which was a high-stress environment. She now works in finance at Boston’s Children’s Hospital. She says, “My dad’s illness made me question what I was doing in my own life. I couldn’t be happier in my new job.”
Carolyn was not much of a runner growing up but she participated in other sports. She competed in Irish step dancing which allowed her to travel all over North American. Carolyn also played soccer and hockey in high school. While she ran track one year in high school, it was not something she stuck with long-term. Now, as an adult, Carolyn is learning to enjoy running. She says, “I am just getting back into running. It is therapeutic because I can just let my mind go.”
A year after his passing, Carolyn decided that she wanted to run her first half-marathon to honor her dad. She saw that Project Purple is an official charity partner for the Denver Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, and she felt like this was a perfect opportunity to run for her father and a tremendous cause. Joe always encouraged Carolyn to work hard and get out of her comfort zone. She believes that her father would be proud of her for testing herself at the half-marathon distance.
Carolyn says, “It feels strange to be running for my dad. When I set up my Crowdrise fundrasiign page, it brought up all kinds of emotions. But that makes me want to do more to help the cause. I hope they can find a way to diagnose Pancreatic Cancer earlier. I lost my father and I do not want anyone else to ever have to go through this.”
Please support Carolyn’s fundraising efforts by donating at the link below: