Runners Christine Sterne & Lynn Allen

Tisha Allen was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2007. She had always been a healthy woman who was very active and played a lot of tennis. Her diagnosis came about in a rather unusual way: Her dermatologist happened to notice that her skin was yellow. If she had not been jaundiced, who knows how long it would have taken for her pancreatic cancer to be accurately diagnosed.

Because Tisha’s cancer was caught early, she was able to have the Whipple surgery. In the Whipple, the head of the pancreas is removed, and the digestive system is rerouted and put back together. She recovered well after her surgery and everyone felt optimistic about her future. She had chemotherapy following the surgery in hopes that any remaining cancer cells would be eliminated.

Tisha did very well for about two-and-a-half years. Then the doctors discovered that she had a tumor in her breast. She was tested for the BRCA genetic mutations, which has been linked to both breast cancer and pancreatic cancer, but she was not found to be a carrier. Tisha had radiation treatments for what was presumed to be breast cancer. Once again, Tisha’s health seemed to return and everyone was breathing a sigh of relief.

The following year, Tisha went in for her annual post-cancer CT scan. This time, they discovered that her Pancreatic Cancer was back. It had spread to her liver. At this point, Tisha’s family and medical team both felt helpless. Tisha had fought long and hard. There was not much more that the medical community could do except try to keep her comfortable. She passed away in 2012, 5 years and one week after her initial diagnosis with pancreatic cancer.

Tisha’s family was devastated to lose her. Lynn remembers her mother’s selfless spirit. She says, “Mom’s world revolved around Dad and her three kids.” Christine remembers the special things that Tisha did for them. “I went to the University of Georgia. I used to love to go see concerts. I would see a band one night in Athens and mom would go out and buy tickets so that I could see the same band the next night in Atlanta. All of my friends would come and mom would make breakfast for everyone in the morning,” she recalls. Both daughters remember how fun-loving and adventurous their mother was. Tisha even ran a half-marathon in New York City the year she turned 55.

The Allen family
The Allen family

Christine and Lynn both live in the Atlanta area. Since losing their mom, they have both been very active in working towards a cure for pancreatic cancer. They have served on the boards of pancreatic cancer charities in the past, but they felt that it was time for them to help the cause in a new way. This time around, the sisters decided that they would run a marathon to honor their mother.

When they were growing up, neither Christine nor Lynn were runners. However, they both pursued their athletic passions. Christine was a competitive swimmer. Lynn also swam but it was not her sole sport. She also played soccer and tennis at various junctures during her youth.Christine and Lynn took up running as adults in large part because it is such a simple sport to pursue. It is much easier to just throw on a pair of shoes and run out the door than it is to drive to a pool. Running had become meaningful to them while their  mother battled cancer. The sisters had trained for and run a half-marathon when Tisha was still alive. For every hour that their mom was in treatment on a given week, they committed to run the same number of hours. If there mom had to sit in the chemo chair for five hours, then they promised that they would go run for five hours. Through their running, they felt that they could do something to show their solidarity with their mom and she endured endless treatments.

Lynn & Christine running in purple.
Lynn & Christine running in purple.

Christine jokes that the New York City Marathon has been on her “anti-bucket list” for years. This year, the race will fall on Christine’s 40th birthday. She reconsidered her “anti-bucket list” and became convinced that she needed to run the race. Christine convinced Lynn that running the New York City Marathon for Project Purple would be a perfect way to honor Tisha. They both feel so passionately about fundraising for pancreatic cancer that neither of them would consider running for any other cause.

Sisters Lynn & Christine

The New York City Marathon will be the first marathon for both Christine and Lynn. Lynn says, “I started running because Christine made me, but now I really like it!” On a more serious note, Lynn adds that when she is out on her training runs, she thinks about everything their family has been through. It is her time to reflect on what her mom means to her.

Christine and Lynn have set up a joint fundraising page. They have made their Project Purple fundraiser a true family affair. Every Monday, they set up a conference call and include their brother, who is not a runner. The three siblings talk about running, training and fundraising. This way they can all be involved in the marathon effort.

The marathon has taken on a whole new meaning recently. Not long ago, Tisha’s best friend, Moyra Jackson, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Lynn and Christine are experiencing a lot of the same feelings they felt as their mom was diagnosed. They are very close to Moyra and want to honor her through their running also.

Lynn and Christine and happy to do what they can to help others. Lynn sums it up well, saying, “Watching your mom go through something like this is really hard. We are not happy that we have had this experience but we are happy to help others through our Project Purple experience.”

Lynn, Christine & TIsha

Please donate to Lynn and Christine’s fundraiser at the link below:


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