For Naperville resident, Kelly Custer, this morning’s Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk was more than a fundraiser. It was a tangible showing of her family’s support for her after her recent diagnosis with the disease.
“My sister just happened to find it on Facebook. And it started out with her making communication with my daughter and it was just going to be the two of them,” explained Custer. “Then other family members said ‘no way, we are also going to walk.’ And it has just blossomed over just two weeks.”
Team Kelly joined more than 250 people during the Fourth Annual Naperville Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk.
Teams raise money to be donated to the Lustgarten Foundation, a not-for-profit that works to raise funds and support for pancreatic cancer.
“Very little research was being done on this disease until we were established in 1998.,” said Ann Walsh, Director of Events for the Lustgarten Foundation. “And since we were funded we have raised $90 million for research and awareness to raise the level of care.”
Currently, a person’s chance of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is one in 78. That’s why events like this are aimed at shining light on a disease that was once called a silent killer.
Custer’s longtime friend and co-worker, Dave Mucci, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer himself shortly after Kelly was.
Mucci went to the doctor to have frostbite on his toes treated and they found the cancer.
“My doctor said you are the luckiest person in the world,” Mucci said. “We may have found this two or three years later and you would have had a month to live.”
That’s why Mucci and Custer say it’s critical to increase funding to those fighting the disease so that early detection can be developed and hopefully save lives.
“I have four children and it’s probably genetically linked and I would like to see them have the opportunity to be treated in their 20’s and 30’s,” said Custer.
Walker Lindsey Bialek’s life was also touched by the disease.
“My dad passed way from pancreatic cancer three years ago. He was 60 years old,” said Bialek. “Obviously, very unexpected. We found out in November and he passed away in April.”
So when the former organizer of the event was unable to do it this year, Bialek who is from Bourbonnais, stepped up so the Naperville event could continue.
“It helps me grieve and get through it,” said Bialek. “And it’s nice to know I’m doing something so that other people don’t have to deal with this. That’s my hope, is that ten years from now there will be a cure for this disease.”
As of the start of the walk, the group had raised over $30,000.
“100 percent of the money raised will go directly to pancreatic cancer research, because our administrative costs are covered by CableVision Foundation,” explained Walsh.
The donation portion of Naperville’s walk will be open online until the end of the year, for more information visit Lustgarten.org/donate.
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