Krysta and Bryce DeMolee are no strangers to the hardships that come with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. The DeMolee siblings have lost both their grandfather and father to the disease, and neither man survived the year. Unfortunately, they didn’t even see six months. Today, the DeMolees want to dedicate their time to increase awareness for this disease.
“I want to create as much awareness for other people as possible and show them, you know, if they are having symptoms– go get checked out. Or run to create awareness,” said Krysta, “just anything so that no one else has to go through the pain. I want to make the future better so that people don’t have to deal with a short diagnosis.”
Together, the siblings just ran Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN on Saturday, June 17 to make that awareness a reality.
DeMolee’s One-Month Why
Krysta and Bryce are only two out of the six siblings in the DeMolee clan. They lived in Minnesota before scattering to their chosen professions; Krysta, an animal specialist roaming Australia, and Bryce, a veteran turned special education teacher up north in the Fargo area.
They are no strangers to tragedy either. They had lost their grandfather when they were young to pancreatic cancer after a short, three-month battle. Then, right before the COVID-19 pandemic took full effect, the DeMolee’s lost their older brother Kyle to a sudden medical complication. This tragedy left the family floundering, with most of the siblings keeping to themselves while in mourning. The family was still grieving the loss when in October of 2020, the family got more unexpected bad news.
When their father found out he had pancreatic cancer in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DeMolee family came back together from their corners of the world to help support their family with this new diagnosis.
“You don’t know if someone has early stage, or late stage,” Bryce said, remembering when he first found out about his father’s diagnosis. “It’s all fresh, but for me, I thought, at least we have a couple of months to go through some final things, prepare some things, do some things together, but… right after that phone call everything went real quickly.”
Their father only survived a month, most of which was spent in an isolated hospital room with only his wife there for comfort. As a family man, Mr. DeMolee wanted nothing more than to be with the people he loved. So, in the final week of his life, the family moved him back home to administer hospice care.
“I can’t even remember how long we were on hospice care, it felt like a long time, but I think it was probably 2 weeks, a week, something like that,” said Bryce. “Once he got home everything escalated. It seemed like he gave all his strength to come home and be as normal as he could the first night with us and then that was ultimately all he could give.”
After their father’s loss, the siblings needed time to grieve and reconnect with one another. Thankfully, Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth is sort of a hometown race for the DeMolee siblings. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to start to turn their grief into something positive.
The DeMolee’s Get Ready to Run
Krysta found Project Purple, like so many others, while searching for pancreatic cancer charities online. She reached out to Bryce not long after to ask about running the marathon with her. The two signed up together, and even though they haven’t been able to train side by side, they have stayed connected through running.
“We communicate a lot about him trying to get down to my pace,” Krysta said. “I’ve been inquiring with him about foods and different stuff because Bryce is more athletic in that sense, so it’s been good to train in the verbal sense together.”
“We’ve been on the same running program,” Bryce added, “we’ve been able to share our distances, or time, and our pacing.”
Running has also allowed the DeMolee siblings to discover the hidden benefits of running, which have helped them reconnect with themselves.
“I’ve really enjoyed the process of training for it, there are so many little things inside of running,” said Bryce. “It’s a mental challenge. It’s a way to push yourself and make yourself better…we all have things we need to work out at different points in our lives and for this [moment], specifically, right now I don’t think there is anything I’m going through that I need to work out, but I know with that amount of time [in the race], there is going to be something that I didn’t think about and it will come up, so I’ll be able to work through that and find some positivity.”
Krysta also has found running helpful, specifically for finding balance.
“Once you get that momentum going, and you get running, even if you do a morning run, I think that it makes me be more productive through the rest of the day,” said Krysta, “like I read a little bit longer or I might eat a little bit healthier or something. Or you know you have to run that evening, you eat a little bit healthier during the day. It makes your everyday just a little bit more rounded.”
The DeMolee’s Hit the Trail
Together, the siblings are ready to take on this new challenge, knowing that their actions are making a difference.
“I’m proud to be representing a charity that is doing such good work,” said Bryce, “I really hope Krysta and I can continue to be involved in any way we can to help out and push the awareness and push the research for everyone else. You know, our time is kinda done with the help that we can receive so it’s time for us to give some help.”
Krysta has found that not only can running make a difference, but it can also help her find a new community to be a part of.
“It makes you closer together, you find something you can both put that energy or that frustration, or your emotions you’re feeling into our run and make it a positive outcome,” said Krysta, “you know, spread as much awareness, be a part of a community where everyone else knows what it’s like to have family that have had pancreatic cancer.”
Their comradery carried them through the race, in every way.
“We are figuratively and literally running together,” said Bryce, “we are going step with step together through the whole thing. But, I’m going to finish one step ahead.”
“Multiple steps ahead!” Krysta jokes.
If you’d like to run for Project Purple like the Demolee siblings, visit https://www.projectpurple.org/events/category/road_races/.
If you’d like to donate to the Demolees’ fundraising page, visit https://donate.projectpurple.org/fundraiser/4682567.