Tessa Pals Runs First Marathon for Uncle David

“Uncle David was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer while I was living in Chicago,” Tessa Pals recalls. Her uncle, David Kostolansky, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2014. In July, 2015, following chemotherapy and radiation, David was deemed eligible for potentially curative surgery.  She adds, “He had surgery and it was a huge success.”

Even though the Whipple surgery was particularly tough on David’s body, for a while he was considered cancer-free. When Tessa left  in August, 2016 to work towards her MBA at the Darden School of Business, she believed the worst was in the past for her Uncle David. But in 2016,  the family suffered a huge blow. His cancer had returned. 

Tessa Pals 

For Tessa, who comes from a very tight-knit family, being away at college during her Uncle David’s cancer battle was very difficult. “I witnesses his illness from a distance. I felt like I wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing to support him,” Tessa explains. “He was just an incredible person. If you talk to anybody in our family, he was always a family-first, co-workers-first guy. It was incredible to see how much he took care of everyone else. I wanted to be there to do those kinds of things for him, but I was away at school.”

David Kostolanksy made a great impact on every life he touched, including Tessa’s. She was inspired by his kindness, his strength and his perseverance. One day, while she was in her MBA program, Tessa realized her relationship with Uncle David had shifted. “We were just talking about business school, and we were at a point where he was no longer just my super cool uncle. He was also my friend. Seeing our relationship growing was a really amazing thing for me to see,” she recalls.

Tessa Pals Project Purple
Tessa Pals with her uncle David Kostolansky


Inspiration to Run

Tessa was inspired to run the San Francisco by her cousin Megan Kostolansky, who is David’s daughter. Megan ran the Chicago Marathon with the Project Purple team in 2016 and is currently training to return to Chicago and to run the New York City Marathon with Project Purple in 2017. Since Tessa was unable to be with her Uncle David through much of his battle with pancreatic cancer, she decided she could run and raise money to honor his life. (read more of Megan’s story HERE)

Tessa says, “Our family is very close. You hear about families who only see each other once in a while but our families are very much a part of each other’s lives. I am older than Megan by 5 or 6 years and I have seen her grow up into this awesome person. Being able to witness her story last year with Project Purple was incredible. Losing Uncle David to pancreatic cancer was insanely tragic for my family, but seeing how the Kostolanskys handled it and grew from it was amazing. I want to do my part as a tribute to Uncle David.”

David Kostolansky Pancreatic Cancer
Tessa Pals’ Uncle, David Kostolanksy

San Francisco Marathon

This July, Tessa ran the San Francisco marathon with the Project Purple team. It was her very first time covering the entire 26.2 mile distance. Tessa has played competitive sports most of her life. She has raced on skis, played golf and still has a passion for rugby.  Last fall she decided to give distance running a shot.

Over these last few months, Tessa discovered she loves running. She trained for and completed a half-marathon in February as part of her build-up to the full marathon distance. Over the weeks leading up to the San Francisco marathon, she was traveling, which made it a challenge to be consistent in her training. However, she also saw it as an opportunity to run in other countries and see the sights in an entirely different way.

Running For Project Purple

Tessa arrived in San Francisco with what she refers to as ‘a small entourage’ of friends and family. She says, “The marathon went well. Everything was on track. I feel like I really got into the zone and didn’t have much of the exhaustion people talk about.” She continues, “It was like sightseeing on foot. I got into the zone and just did it. My family met me at various points along the way.”  While the hills were nothing to be taken lightly, the support along the course provided an emotional lift when Tessa needed it. 

Tessa Pals Project Purple
Tessa Pals (center) at the finish of the San Francisco Marathon

The weather was beautiful and perfect, as it often is in San Francisco at this time of the year. “The morning started off in the low 50s and it was misty. It was perfectly cool.” Runners crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and ran throughout the park. “Once we got out of the park, the sun came out and there were people along the course handing out fruit and cheering runners along.”

Support From Project Purple

Tessa successfully fulfilled her goal of running a full marathon and she believes running for Project Purple made the experience more meaningful and more enjoyable. “Running and fundraising for Project Purple were hugely motivating factors. I don’t think it would have been as easy to train for and finish the marathon without the support I had. If I had questions or concerns, I could email Program Director Chelsey Bunyer or check in with (CEO) Dino Verrelli. I received emails and a gift package along the way which kept me going and reminded me of why I was running.”

Tessa is pleased she was able to support the Kostolansky family while raising money for a cause she cares deeply about. She is still collecting donations. To make a tax-deductible donation to Project Purple, please click HERE

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