Why I Walk

Why I Walk: Kelly Honors Her Father

I wish my dad Frank was here so I could tell him about all the recent changes in my life. I bought a new car for the first time, am buying a new house, and my husband and I are going to have a baby. Normally, I would be able to call my dad and discuss every detail, welcoming his guidance and support. But pancreatic cancer took him from us on October 4, 2013, after an 11-month battle. He was only 57 years old.

My dad would have loved hearing about everything and would be so excited about meeting his first grandchild. He was the type of father who when you really needed him, he was there. He would always say to us, “I am not going to make things easy for you but I will never let you fall.” He loved his family as passionately as he loved his life and his pursuits. He was a big bear of a man who was really dedicated to our church, riding his Harley, and was proud to run his own business.

His health had been fine until September 2012 when he began to experience some back pain. The doctor said it seemed like it might be something to do with his gallbladder, but one test led to another and they saw something on his liver. After a biopsy, on November 14, 2012, they told him he had pancreatic cancer, and only three to six months to live. My dad didn’t care what they said, as he was determined to beat the odds and be at my wedding in June 2013, seven months away.

The doctor tried to give my dad options, offering to get him into a clinical trial that was testing a new drug combination. My dad agreed and for awhile things looked good. The tumors had shrunk and my dad was feeling better. He made my wedding day and it was beautiful.

However, shortly after, his health deteriorated again and the doctors tried several treatments but by the end of September 2013 the disease had spread so much the doctor told us that he might only have four to six weeks left. He made it eight days.

Before my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I knew it was bad, but it is so different when you see someone you love suffer from it. That’s why I got involved with The Lustgarten Foundation. I found them online and know how much they support research. My family came together to join the Foundation’s New York City Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk for the first time this year. I know it sounds funny, but it was so nice to see so many people come together who have or are now going through the same thing. The walk is emotional but I feel so hopeful. It was an opportunity to give a voice to those who are no longer with us but also to see survivors and hear about progress being made.

I am due to give birth to my first child and my father’s first grandchild exactly two years to the day he was diagnosed. It is a strong reminder of why we fight. I know there are so many things my father is missing out on, but at the same time, if pancreatic cancer is something my future children don’t have to deal with, or if there are more advances made and an early detection test created that would help prevent it, I know every step is worth it. The life expectancy for this disease is so short, and so many of our loved ones are not here to advocate for themselves. That’s why I urge others to get involved. Someone you love may one day need you to make sure they don’t fall.

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