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Why I Walk: Peter Honors Jackie, His Best Friend’s Mother

When I was growing up, a bunch of us loved to hang out at my best friend’s house because of his mother, Jackie.  She was always someone who was there for us as kids. Whether it was to raid the fridge, sit and chat, or just have someone to go to who you knew cared, there was no one closer to us than Jackie. She treated us so well that we kept hanging out at my friend’s house all the way through high school and even in college. She was like a second mother to me.  

That’s why when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it was devastating. I never expected this wonderful woman to ever get sick. I knew she had been on many doctor visits, and they couldn’t figure out why she was unwell, whether it was her gall bladder or something else. When they ultimately found out it was pancreatic cancer, she was gone in just two months. It is amazing to me how this disease can affect someone who one moment is perfectly healthy and then so quickly they are gone. While it’s been 15 years since she passed, I still get emotional just thinking about how I tried to see her as often as I could during her illness, yet I missed being there the moment she died and I never got a chance to say goodbye. 

Several years ago I found out about The Lustgarten Foundation’s annual Long Island Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk and decided to volunteer. It was a really easy way to get involved and feel that I was doing something in Jackie’s honor. It’s been great to see so many people enthusiastic about making a difference, and all the teams, banners, families, and pictures of loved ones. This year I decided to take it a step further and join the walk with family and friends as Team “Jackie D.”  I feel creating a team in her honor will allow me to give back even more to this cause and in a much more personal way.

Jackie’s son – still my best friend – went on to become my family. He married my wife’s sister, so is now my brother-in-law. To say we are all close is an understatement. We also share a bond of loving a woman taken from us too soon by a deadly disease. Her passing has left a hole in the family that nothing can fill. Yet, participating in the walk helps us to do something for Jackie, even though she is no longer with us.

Pancreatic cancer is a disease everyone should know about. And while there is progress being made in research that may have helped her today, an early detection test in the future would help give so many others a better chance to survive. This disease doesn’t discriminate and can take a loved one so quickly, a family doesn’t even have time to internalize what is going on or understand what it means. You don’t know when or who it can strike. That’s why I walk. Jackie was our rock and always there for us, so we continue her fight.

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