Posted at: 04/24/2013 9:19 AM
Updated at: 04/25/2013 8:22 AM
By: Brittany Falkers
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cancer killer in the U.S. But, for some, finding strength with others can make a big difference. TeamHope will have the first ever a Purple Rally at Granma's Sports Garden Thursday, April 25 to spread awareness.
About ten years ago, Jenny Falk says she hadn't really heard much about pancreatic cancer. "I didn't know how deadly it was. I didn't know anything about it," she said.
In 2005 that changed quickly when her new father-in-law, Steve, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She had just gotten married and was focused on starting anew chapter in life when her husband's stepdad started having stomach pains. In march of that year they found out he had cancer.
"It was really quick," She said, "He was diagnosed in March and passed away in July."
It wasn't until December of 2009 she says those ugly words pancreatic cancer came shattering back into her life. Her aunt Carole was diagnosed.
"As soon as she was diagnosed I knew what to expect and what was coming and I knew it wasn't going to be good," Jenny said.
By the time Carole learned that it was cancer, it had already spread to her liver and kidneys. Jenny says she held on for four months, the same amount of time as her father-in-law Steve.
Then, just three months after Carole passed, doctors found a mass in Jenny's mom's pancreas. It was cancer. "We all panicked and knew what as coming," Jenny said.
Her mom's cancer was caught early, which doesn't happen often because there are no real tools for early detection. She was able to have a procedure to remove the mass, another rarity for patients with pancreatic cancer.
"So she had her whipple and then she hung on for about 20 months. And with loosing the other two within fourth months, we were grateful for the extra time that we did have with her," Jenny said.
Before her mom passed, the two found support with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Jenny says she feels lucky they were able to go to meetings and meet others going through the same thing together. It made a big impact on both of them.
"Her main thing was that I stay involved with it. She was very specific that we can't back down from this. We need to keep fighting it."
So she did. Jenny joined TeamHope. They're a group of runners and volunteers from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Last year 55 runners, along with a group of volunteers, participated in Grandma's Marathon here in the Northland. They raised $37,000 for research at last year race and this year they're even bigger. More than 150 runners will hit the pavement this year to raise even more money and spread awareness.
Jenny volunteered last year, but this June she'll be running the half for her family and the future. She says training is tough, but thinking about what her mom, aunt and father-in-law went through keeps her going.
"It just is one of those things where you're going, and you say, 'oh I want to quit.' I think of all of the stuff they went through and if they can fight I can certainly make it five more minutes on the treadmill," Jenny said.
You can help in the fight too. Join TeamHope this Thursday, April 25, at Grandma's Sports Garden for the first ever Duluth Purple Rally. You can learn more about pancreatic cancer and join the fight to find a cure. Because treatment options are limited, but with your help there is hope.