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The Voice of the Black Community


Race to end pancreatic cancer
Sept. 7 fundraiser includes 5K run/walk
Published Thursday, August 22, 2013 12:07 pm
by Amanda Raymond

End pancreatic cancer by crossing a finish line.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is organizing a fundraising event for Sept. 7. The event, PurpleStride Charlotte 2013, will be a 5k timed-run and family-friendly walk at Marshall Park, 800 East Third St. The walk will swerve through Uptown Charlotte, Dilworth and the Little Sugar Creek Greenway.

Registration begins at 7 a.m. and the walk/run starts at 8:30 am.

The PCAN established a local Charlotte group in 2011, and its main goals include education and fundraising for research.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. and the 5th cancer killer worldwide, according to the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center at Johns Hopkins. As early as the year 2015, it could rank as the No. 2 cause of cancer deaths. 

“We think it’s important for people to get involved in PurpleStride because this is trending to be the second leading cause of cancer death,” Mark Weber, volunteer media co-chair of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network of Charlotte, said.  “As a people, we need to figure out a way to cure this disease. It’s the most underfunded, from a research perspective, of any of the major cancer causes. We really need people to get involved to create awareness, and by creating awareness that helps to create the dollars that we need to be able to contribute toward research to be able to stop this trend.”

According to the American Cancer Society, there have been over 45,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer this year. Pancreatic cancer has already claimed the lives of over 38,000 Americans this year, and the rates of new patients have been creeping up over the past 10 years.  There is no cure.

Weber said these statistics are more than just numbers for him.

“I’ve lost my mother and my wife lost her father to the disease,” he said.

Holly Patz, event coordinator and event chair for PurpleStride Charlotte, said pancreatic cancer has hit her personally as well.

“I had not really heard too much about pancreatic cancer,” she said. “When this diagnosis hit our family (we) heard our sister affiliate in Raleigh-Durham was hosting a PurpleStride event the year that my mother-in-law passed away and attended that for the first year. (That’s when it was) decided that Charlotte needs to have something like this to create awareness and to raise funding for pancreatic cancer.”

Patz said there will be a Purple Playzone for kids that will include face painting, a balloon artist and children’s games like corn hole. The Chick-Fil-A Cow will also be making an appearance. 

Weber said the event raised $90,000 last year. Since that was the first time PurpleStride took place in Charlotte, the Network is setting an even larger goal of $125,000. Almost 1,000 people are expected to participate.

“Given the trends that we’re seeing, we’re well on our way to meet and exceed both the amount of money as well as the number of participants in 2013,” he said.

Johns Hopkins says pancreatic cancer is 50-90 percent more common in African Americans than any other racial group in the U.S.  Blacks also have the worst chance of survival because they are often diagnosed when the cancer is further advanced and therefore inoperable.

“This is another really shocking statistic,” Weber said. “I think the typical person just has no idea how deadly the disease is. More and more of us and our friends and neighbors and people in the community are going to be impacted by this disease. We need people to understand it and we need people to have the awareness to help us advance research.”

The American Cancer Society says the risk for pancreatic cancer is twice as high for smokers, and since smoking is more common among African Americans, this may be a reason why the cancer is so prevalent. Other risk factors include diabetes mellitus, pancreatitis and being overweight, which are all more common in blacks, says John Hopkins.

Signs and symptoms include yellowing of the eyes and skin, pain in the abdomen area or the middle of the back, weight loss, fatigue, loss of appetite and digestive problems.

Patz said the development of detection tools is also an important mission.

“Unfortunately, a lot of our patients that are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are not diagnosed until they’re in stage 4 or it’s too late, in part because most of the symptoms are very vague,” she said. “They don’t necessarily initiate a lot of concern when someone would go to a doctor about it.”

Weber said at the end of the day, one of the most important things PurpleStride is raising is hope.

“Yes, the statistics are grim. But I think we create that awareness and we create the money to advance research,” he said. “We are creating hope at the same time and we think that’s incredibly important.” 

To participate, register at www.purplestride.org.



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