Steve Jobs succumbed, at the age of 56, to a rare form of pancreatic cancer.
A few days earlier Dr. Ralph Steinman -- a brilliant pioneer in the study of the immune system and who was using his research to fight his own battle with pancreatic cancer -- also passed away, having lived 4 /12 years after he was diagnosed. Three days later, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine.
We can only imagine, with heavy hearts, what else these two men would have accomplished had they not be struck down by this deadly disease.
Closer to home, a much-loved mother at my daughters' school, and a breast cancer survivor, died from pancreatic cancer last fall, leaving a devastated husband and 13-year-old daughter. A very close friend's mother also succumbed to pancreatic cancer last year, a few short months after having been diagnosed.
All of them over -- or close to -- 50. This is clearly a cancer that targets my age group, and I'm nervous.
In early January, not knowing how else to express my grief, frustration, and fear, I decided to run in the ING NYC Marathon -- which is November 6th -- to raise much-needed money for research, treatment and support of those who contract pancreatic cancer, with the hope that with more money will bring more knowledge.
According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, a leading nationwide group of people working together to advance research, support patients and create hope for those affected by pancreatic cancer, there are two main reasons why pancreatic cancer continues to have the highest mortality rate of all major cancers:
- There are no detection tools or screening tests to diagnose the disease in its early stages when surgical removal of the tumor is possible.
Following are just a few of the sobering statistics on pancreatic cancer, also from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network:
- Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States.
- In 2011, 43,140 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States, and 36,800 will die from the disease.
When I run in the ING NYC Marathon on November 6th to raise awareness of, and money for, pancreatic cancer research, I will be holding the memories of my two friends who succumbed to this disease close to my heart, and knowing that I'm helping the effort in my own small way will push me over the finish line. But, Steve Jobs, Dr. Ralph Steinman, and the 43,000 men and women who will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year will be in my heart and mind, as well.
Someone asked me recently why I was spending months to train for, and run in, the grueling NYC Marathon to raise awareness and money for pancreatic cancer research. My answer?
Because I can.
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For more information about living your best life after 50, visit www.bestofeverythingafter50.com. Staying connected is a powerful tool. "Friend" me on Facebook and "Tweet" me on Twitter (BGrufferman). 50: It's More Than An Age . . . It's a Movement.
2011 New York City Marathon Weekly Training Countdown (5 weeks to go!)
I'm running in the NYC Marathon in November to celebrate my 55th birthday and raise money for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Here's an update on my training schedule for this week:
Monday: 8 miles using a run/walk ratio of 3 minutes/30 seconds
Wednesday: 6 miles using a run/walk ratio of 3 minutes/30 seconds
Friday: 12 miles with using a run/walk ratio of 60 seconds/30 seconds
Every other week, I'll be adding another mile or so to the long run (keeping the two short runs the same distance), and I will be adding "speed work" to my training. Stay tuned!