After losing her father in 2010 to a short but valiant battle with pancreatic cancer, a California runner turned Marathon Goddess is pushing forward with her effort to fight the destructive disease.
"There is no early detection method out there, that's why it's so devastating," said Julie Weiss, 42, who will lead the Boston Scientific team at Saturday's Unite to Fight Pancreatic Cancer walk. "You don't even have a fighting chance. So we're all coming together to spread an abundance of awareness and hopefully make a difference."
Hosted by The Lustgarten Foundation and Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, the walk will bring together businesses, organizations, individuals and families impacted by the disease to raise $400,000 and spread the word about early detection of pancreatic cancer.
The event kicks off at 10 a.m. at Mother's Rest Park in South Boston. About 1,500 walkers were registered for the event as of deadline Thursday, however more were expected to sign up by Saturday.
"For me it’s a very personal matter," said Boston Scientific employee Derrick Lenz, who has lost loved ones to pancreatic cancer. Unlike his grandfather, his father was diagnosed relatively early, and was able to survive for three years before succumbing to the disease.
"That time was pretty meaningful for me and our family," said Lenz, who will walk alongside Weiss at Saturday's event.
According to The Lustgarten Foundation, pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and is estimated to become the second leading cause of death by the year 2020.
There are 44,000 cases diagnosed each year in the United States. Genetic or hereditary causes of pancreatic cancer account for only 5-10 percent of cases. Only 6 percent of people have a survival rate of more than five years.
The risk of developing pancreatic cancer increases sharply after age 50, and long-term smoking cessation of at least 10 years reduces the risk by about 30 percent compared to the risk to current smokers.
"This really brings a face to this disease. It's about saving these people. Giving everyone a chance," said Weiss, who ran 52 marathons in 52 weeks — between March 2012 and March 2013 — to raise money for the cause. So far she has netted nearly $200,000, but she hopes to raise as much as $1 million.
"I did something dramatic, but people don't have to run to make a difference. Make a donation or spread awareness," said Weiss. "We are really in this fight together."
Visit unite2fightpc.org to donate and register to walk.