5 years ago, I went to register for the marathon in Lincoln, Nebraska. At the time, I didn’t know that it was tough getting into the race because it was so popular. I was super disappointed that I couldn’t get in. A friend told me that I could if I ran for a charity.
So, I signed up to raise money for Project Purple to get in to the marathon. This doesn’t sound at all like a noble reason. Little did I realize how impactful this would become.
I went to work immediately asking family, friends, even strangers to donate to the cause. I mean, I had to raise $500 in short order. It was then that I learned about my family’s history with pancreatic cancer, the cancer that Project Purple exists to defeat.
You see, when I was young, my mom had to go and care for my grandmother in Japan. She was there for a few months. I knew my grandmother had suddenly become sick but I was too young to know to ask any questions when my mom came home following my grandmother’s death. My grandmother died within three months of her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. This was decades ago.
At the time when I learned about my grandmother and her pancreatic cancer, a close friend was diagnosed. Ellen was in her 40’s, physically active and vibrant. It was like a gut punch. I was learning more and more about pancreatic cancer and the devastation it leaves in its path. In 2015, the 5-year survival rate from diagnosis was maybe 5%. Flash forward 5 years to 2020, the 5-year survival rate is predicted to be around 10% (I don’t think that will stick because people haven’t been going to the doctor due to COVID-19 and I now know that early diagnosis is really the only hope for pancreatic cancer victims). So, +5% from 2015. I’ve run the Lincoln Marathon 5 times for Project Purple. I don’t know what all these 5’s mean.
Maybe the 5’s are important because it shows that while there has been progress, there is so much more work needed. The only way that will happen is if we raise more awareness and money. . .money for families, scientists, doctors, early detection tests.
My grandmother’s story and Ellen’s story are, sadly, not unlike the many, many stories of other victims of pancreatic cancer. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t learn about another victim. And, the knowledge that my children are at great risk for many reasons is frightening.
Why am I passionate for and why do I advocate for Project Purple, talk about pancreatic cancer, and raise money? I’m an adult who was left with only a handful of memories of my grandmother. I continue to witness the sadness my mom still feels through the loss of her mom. I had to see my good friend, Ellen, fight to the end until she just had nothing left to give. She almost made it 5 years but pancreatic cancer robbed her of that.
I am the mother of three, grandmother of two, sister to two, daughter, friend to many – I’ll be damned if I don’t fight for them all. In 2015, I ran for Project Purple. Since then, I have and continue to run and fight with Project Purple and I will do so until we get to the world without pancreatic cancer.