Stepping It Up to fight pancreatic cancer

News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Pancreatic Cancer Association of Western New York will hold its annual “Step It Up! Cure Pancreatic Cancer 5K Walk and Family Fun Day” on Saturday, November 16 at the RIT Gordon Field House.

PCAWNY Executive Director Mary Ellen Smith and cancer survivor Shelly Smoke discussed the fight against pancreatic cancer and what’s on tap for this year’s walk Friday during News 8 at Sunrise.

“In January of 2018, I started feeling ill,” smoke said of her cancer diagnosis. “I thought it was normal. Then my urine turned a very dark color and my liver numbers shot through the roof at my doctor’s office. So they were in a full panic. It took me literally going to the Emergency Room to have a CT Scan to identify that there was a mass on my pancreas.”

Smoke went on to explain, “I had the Whipple procedure, which I had never heard of before. But it’s the granddaddy of all surgeries. It’s kind of restructuring everything inside. They took the tumor, a little bit of my stomach, a little bit of my small intestine – the gall bladder got outta there – and they just realigned everything. So from there, while I was having that treatment, they also identified that I had breast cancer. So my next course of action was to have 6 months of chemo, which was pretty brutal, and then the breast cancer surgery after that.”

In spite of her health challenges, Smoke is in good spirits and feeling good. “I have my theory that it’s either laugh or cry, and I’m not a pretty crier,” she said with a laugh.

Smith lost her mother to pancreatic cancer. This is the tenth year for the fundraising walk. “It is surprising that for 10 years there hasn’t been a ton of growth in progress forward like in many other major cancers,” she said. “But we find it very hopeful that in the 10 years, we’ve seen the survival rates for 5 year plus survivor rates go from 3% to 9% now. It’s small, but in the world of pancreatic cancer, that is huge. It’s all because of research and our dollars fund local research here at Wilmot, and we’re always excited when we hear of new studies that they’re undergoing.”

The walk is for everyone – not just those directly impacted by pancreatic cancer. The entire community is invited. “It’s a family fun day,” Smith said. “We want to make sure that families or just the community could come out and rally around people and bring hope and keep it uplifting. We have a special guest this year. Bills Superfan, Bills Dad, Dick DeGroat is performing with the XOXO pop band out of Buffalo. And he’s going to do one of his weekly parodies that he has created specifically for our group. So we’re excited about that.”

To register for the walk and to learn more, visit the PCAWNY website.

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