Why I Walk: Allison Honors Her Mother
My mother Patricia - Pat or Patsy to her many fans and friends - was a beautiful, red-headed force of nature. She never did anything half way, and lived every one of the days of her life to the fullest. She was awe inspiringly selfless and wildly stylish, always wearing bold red lipstick and big earrings. She also was healthy, and rarely sick. That’s why when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2010 it shocked everybody.
When she first learned that she had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, her response was: “Well, I better renew my passport.” That was my mother. She loved to travel, and went to a few places after her diagnosis, including her first NASCAR race. She wasn’t going to stop living her life. She went skydiving with my sister and when asked if she could drink by a concerned friend at a wedding, she responded, “Honey, I have pancreatic cancer, I can do anything I want.” If anyone asked her how she was feeling, she’d say: “I’m great, and how are you?” She was always more interested in what was happening to everyone else around her.
During this time she also underwent any new treatments asked of her, not only because it might prolong her life but also because she felt doing so might help others. My mom faced this disease valiantly for 20 months but in July 2011 she passed away at age 64. People still often speak of her in the present tense (I know that I do), as she was such a large presence in the lives of so many. No one ever forgot my mother once they met her!
Her death forever impacted me, my family and her many, many friends. We are a family of fixers, but we all felt helpless against pancreatic cancer. Her friends will often confide to me that they still feel lost, as she was the glue that held their group together.
After a year or so following her death, I finally felt ready to be a part of the fight against this disease. A lot of my motivation was gained from watching my mother who constantly gave back to her community, so I decided to support The Lustgarten Foundation. The number one calling card for me as an activist and donor is that 100 percent of every dollar raised goes straight to advancing research. It is so important to know where the money goes. Now, my family, friends and mom’s friends come together each year at the Foundation’s New York City Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk to participate as Team “The John McClanes” named for actor Bruce Willis’ lead character from my mother’s favorite Christmas movie, Die Hard. We often quoted the movie throughout her journey and still do with great fondness.
Before and after my mom passed away, we lost two very close family friends to the disease. That’s why I think my mother would be proud that we walk to find a cure. Not only in her honor, as my mom would be annoyed if we made it all about her, but to help others. Her life was so much about giving back, and now I do the same, asking for donations to this great and worthy cause. I am proud of my association with the Foundation, and we will continue to walk (with our red lipstick and flashy earrings) every year in New York City – one of her favorite cities – to help beat pancreatic cancer.
And I know my mom will be with us every step of the way.