Jack Pattie’s family has endured several tragic losses over the years. Of the nine original members of the Pattie family, only four are still surviving. Every single loss was tragic and heartbreaking, but Jack struggled most with the loss of his oldest brother Jimmy. Jack explains, “We had dealt with sudden loss in our family before. You have to learn to just deal with the aftermath and learn to survive in those circumstances. Jimmy’s death was just different. We felt so helpless. He became sick so suddenly. It was like a train was barreling down the tracks at us and there was nothing we could do to stop it.”
In 2012, Jimmy retired from a 32 year career as a teacher. He was eager to enjoying the next phase of his life. His daughter had recently given birth to her first child and he was looking forward to enjoying his grandson and his retirement.
The family was gathered together for Easter when Jimmy announced that he needed an operation called the Whipple. Jimmy downplayed the significance of the surgery he was having, but when Jack looked it up on the internet, he immediately realized how serious the situation was for his brother.
Jimmy was fortunate because his early stage Pancreatic Cancer made him eligible for the Whipple. The Whipple is major surgery, though, and he spent 12 days following the procedure recovering in the hospital. The surgeon was confident that he had removed the entire tumor, but he also warned Jimmy that Pancreatic Cancer is very aggressive and there was no way to predict what might happen in the future. Jimmy had chemotherapy following his surgery to eradicate any potentially remaining cancer cells.
Though he had lost some weight from the surgery and the chemotherapy, Jimmy recovered well. He had a lot of support to help him get through his chemotherapy treatments. He seemed healthy and the family thought that he was going to be fine. Unfortunately, Jimmy had a recurrence of his cancer. The cancer roared back with a vengeance, quickly spreading throughout Jimmy’s body. Jack recalls feeling incredibly helpless while he watched his brother become gravely ill. He says of this period of time, “Once the cancer came back, there was just not anything anyone can do. I have had so much experience with death, but this was just different. The feeling of helplessness was just overwhelming.” Jimmy passed away on February 1, 2014. He lived just two years past his original diagnosis.
Jack felt empty after losing Jimmy. He had been a runner for many years, and had run the Boston Marathon for a charity team in 2010. Now he wanted to find a Pancreatic Cancer charity so that he could return to Boston in 2014 and honor Jimmy.
Jack was introduced to Project Purple founder Dino Verrelli by mutual friend Susan Hurley. Jack felt somewhat intimidated by the fundraising commitment, but he believed in Project Purple’s mission and wanted to be a part of the team. Jack discussed the fundraising with his family and three sisters. He told them, “I want to do something to honor Jimmy, but I can’t do it alone.” They decided to make the fundraising campaign a family endeavor. It was a great way for the whole family to get involved and feel like they were doing something in memory of Jimmy. Jack says, “It was a group effort and it was a great way for the family to heal.”
Leading up to the marathon, Jack had gone on the radio and created some videos to promote his Boston Marathon Project Purple fundraising and awareness campaigns. Ultimately, Jack and his family ended up raising over $12,500 for Project Purple. Jack had run two other marathons previously, but the 2014 Boston Marathon was extra special.
The crowd and family support he received while out on the course provided him with a tremendous physical and emotional boost. The highlight of the race was seeing his family positioned at mile 26 of the course. He says, “Our family felt so helpless when we lost Jimmy. Running for Project Purple was our family’s way of empowering ourselves and fighting back.”
In May of 2015, Jack ran for Project Purple once again, this time with the Lincoln Marathon team. Jack had not planned on coming to Lincoln, but he kept seeing posts on social media about how big the team was going to be. After a while, he felt compelled to join the team. He had wanted to continue to stay involved with the charity and he thought Lincoln would be a great experience. Jack says, “I am grateful to Project Purple for giving runners the avenue to fight back and do something. It is not what I have done for Project Purple. It is what Project Purple has done for our family.”