Back in February when I made the announcement I was taking on the World Marathon Challenge in 2018, I mentioned that my Grandmother was a huge inspiration to me and unknowingly led me down the path of running. But I didn't really elaborate on how that came about.
In 2007, my Grandmother was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer and hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center. At the time I was 29 and was fortunate to had never encountered someone close to me dealing with any kind of life-threatening disease. The severity of the Cancer came to light when surgeons attempted the Whipple procedure. Unfortunately the Cancer had spread too far into neighboring organs and lymph nodes (stage IV) and it was determined the procedure would not be successful. They gave her a prognosis of 6-12 months. They attempted two rounds of Chemotherapy but after we had a grasp on how the treatment took such a toll on her health the decision was made to manage the pain and let her live her final months in relative peace. Her decline was fast, as in September that year we lost her. This was a huge loss for our family. My Grandmother was the epicenter of our lives and I was just at a point I felt like I was really getting to know her.
The loss of my Grandmother brought several things in my life to light. First, just how precious life is. It can be here one day, and gone the next. Like I mentioned: I hadn’t experienced anything like this before so I always took for granted. Second: a passion for running. And I have to admit this is in a somewhat roundabout way. My Grandmother was originally from Germany and to this day her Sister and siblings still live in Berlin. At the time of my Grandmother’s passing we weren’t particularly close with them. We would see them every several years when they came to visit the US. It became clear to us we needed to strengthen that relationship with our German relatives so that December we took a trip to Germany. I have very clear recollections of how out of shape I felt in Germany. I didn’t consider myself overweight – I had been going to the gym for several years. But walking around the streets of Germany for miles every day as is custom in their lives took a huge physical toll on me. When we returned from Germany, I had decided I needed to do something about that. I picked the thing that was the most daunting to me: running on a treadmill. At the time I hated it! But I felt like I needed it and challenged myself to just run a mile. It really was a struggle for me but I worked hard at it and eventually I overcame that. That progress enabled me to think a little bigger: what about signing up for a race? So I did – a local 6k. It was tough – I mean really tough. But man I loved it! There was something about the physical and mental challenge and also being out there with others who are going through the same. Fast forward to today – running has undoubtedly changed my life in so many positive ways. It’s enabled me to meet incredible people, see incredible places and do incredible things. And my Grandmother is at my side – I know it and I hope it makes her proud.
Through the years I’ve witnessed friends' and friends' loved ones battle with Pancreatic Cancer. Unfortunately, in all instances the diagnosis was too late, and the decline quick. There is nothing that pains me more than having to see someone go through this. And it’s in this light that I firmly support all research for early detection and treatment of Pancreatic Cancer as I know it has the highest mortality rate of any Cancer. I want the conversation to be that a life was saved – the Cancer was detected early enough or the treatment was more effective so that nobody has to go through what we went through with my Grandmother.
Late in 2007 I came to know PanCAN - the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Nearly 90 cents on the dollar of the funds donated to and raised by PanCAN go towards the programs it supports. Their mission and their message is simple: WAGE HOPE. Provide for better treatments, outcomes, and early detection of Pancreatic Cancer through research and advocacy. And never has this been so important.
The facts are frightening. And if the facts aren't enough, major proposed cuts to the National Institute of Health and National Cancer Institute budget's threaten advancements in cancer research.
There is good news, GREAT news: in numbers there is strength. Together we can WAGE HOPE. Over the next 6 months I have set a goal to raise a minimum of $10,000 of which 100% will be donated directly to PanCAN. There will be so many great ways everyone reading this can be a part from events, supporting local businesses, sharing our love running or even direct donations. Stay tuned for more information and join me in going in the distance and making a difference in the fight against Pancreatic Cancer.
Lisa JahnkeJune 1, 2017 - 8:02 pm
So inspired by your mission to “make a difference”.
SandyJune 1, 2017 - 8:34 pm