Runner Shannon Scalisi

Shannon Scalisi will be running the Chicago Marathon this fall in honor of her mother, Lynda Turnage. Shannon lost her mother to pancreatic cancer just weeks ago.  This will be Shannon’s first time running the marathon distance and she is looking forward to being a part of the Project Purple team. When asked why she chose Chicago, Shannon says, “Sometimes God whispers in your ear. I just wanted to do Chicago, and I found Project Purple, so I will be running it.”

Lynda & Shannon
Lynda & Shannon

Lynda Turnage began experiencing nausea in the spring of 2014. Soon, she had pains in her upper stomach that radiated to her back. She worked as a teacher’s aid in the school Shannon’s children attended. Because of her work schedule, she wanted to wait until May to pursue a diagnosis. In the meantime, her doctor placed her on medication for reflux. Unfortunately, the medicine was ineffective at reducing her symptoms. Finally, in May, Lynda had a CT scan. That is when they discovered a mass in her pancreas. Testing showed that the cancer had already spread, and Lynda was given a diagnosis of Stage IV pancreatic adenocarcinoma.

Shannon remembers how they sought opinions from doctors at several cancer centers. The first doctor they saw in Lynda’s hometown predicted that Lynda would only survive for 3 to 6 months. The family broadened their search for help to various cancer centers throughout the country. The next doctor they saw also did not provide much hope for Lynda’s future. Finally, they found a doctor who seemed willing to try a variety of treatment approaches. The family decided to pursue treatment with the doctor who gave them some sense of hope.

Lynda during a hospital stay
Lynda during a hospital stay

Lynda started on FOLFIRINOX initially. Her tumor did not respond to this treatment, so she was switched to Gemzar and Abraxane. After a few months of treatment with this drug combination, Lynda had another CT scan. This time around, the scan showed that she now had a tumor in her spine. Unfortunately, her cancer did not seem to be responding to this new chemo combination, either. Further complicating matters, Lynda suffered a mini-stroke. She had been traveling from her home in Louisiana to Georgia every two weeks for treatment, but now Lynda was in a weakened condition and was unable to make the trek to the cancer center. She was hospitalized in her hometown of Alexandria, LA. The doctor she saw recommended against any further chemotherapy treatments, feeling that it would be too toxic for Lynda. She passed away only one week later, on May 15, 2015.  Lynda had fought Pancreatic Cancer for just over a year. She left behind her husband of 45 years, Pat Turnage, her two children, her grandchildren and an extended network of family and loved ones.

Shannon, Lynda & their extended family
Shannon, Lynda & their extended family

Lynda had been a very healthy woman who enjoyed walking for exercise. Lynda emphasize the golden rule in her home and had a heart of gold. Shannon remembered her mother’s kind and generous spirit. She says, “She was a loving grandma, mom and best friend. She was a bright light who was always smiling, always happy. She never met a stranger. She loved everyone. My mom was a wonderful spirit who was goofy and fun. She would even go on the monkey bars with the pre-K kids she worked with.”

Shannon's mom and Shannon's children
Lynda and Shannon’s children

Shannon still struggles when she talks about losing her mom. She tears up at several points as she describes the woman who raised her and who was the only person to ever look after her own four children. Shannon has been a runner for a number of years and decided that she could best honor her mother by running for a pancreatic cancer charity in her honor. When Shannon was a child, she played softball competitively but she did not take up running until a few years ago. Her husband’s place of employment was planning a 5k, so Shannon and Johnny decided to run the race together. Since then, they have completed several half-marathons and a Tough Mudder. They had planned to run a marathon a couple of years ago, but Shannon suffered an injury to a bone in her foot. Racing was put on hold indefinitely when Lynda became ill.

This October, Shannon Scalisi will run with the Project Purple Chicago Marathon team as she honors the mother she lost to pancreatic cancer just weeks ago. The prospect of running her first full marathon distance is a bit daunting, but she knows she is doing it for a meaningful cause. Shannon says, “It is going to be great to raise money for Project Purple. If you have a goal and a purpose to your running, it is more rewarding. It gives purpose to the race. I am a little nervous about running a marathon. It will be challenging, but it is nothing like what people with pancreatic cancer face. Every step will be for my mom.”

Lynda & her husband at a race finish
Lynda & Johnny at a race finish

Please support Shannon’s Project Purple fundraiser by donating at her Crowdrise site below:

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