That’s how my friend titled an email to me Monday night, after hearing the news that Patrick Swayze lost his two-year fight against the disease. This just a day after my parents put on their big fundraiser to support research into early-detection tests and a cure.

The event was a huge success. Well over 200 people walked the short route in perfect weather. Of course, it wasn’t the walking that was the point. It was the community and the fundraising. How much fundraising? By the end of the morning Sunday, the event had raised over $41,000 (USD) for the Lustgarten Foundation for pancreatic cancer research. And we’re still accepting donations (hint).

My cousin Bonnie spoke before the walk began. She recently had a prophylactic pancreatectomy (translation: she had her pancreas removed before it was cancerous). After five years participating in the same study my dad’s a part of, doctors agreed her pancreas wasn’t looking good. She lives now as a diabetic; she looks and feels terrific.

One woman on the organizing committee had pancreatic cancer twenty-six years ago. She’s in great health, and she’s pretty awesome.

Still. The overwhelming majority of walkers were there because they’ve lost a loved one, a friend or a colleague. One woman, whose husband was recently diagnosed, asked my mom, “So many people are wearing cards in memory of someone, not in honour. Does anyone survive?”

It’s not an easy question to answer. The answer itself is easy; it’s just not easy to say.

At the end of the event, on a high from the successes, I ran into an old high-school acquaintance. There are few people from my adolescence I’d be happy to randomly bump into, but she’s one of them. She looks just like she did fifteen years ago. Except it’s her dad who was recently diagnosed. I wish I’d bumped into her at a bar so we just could’ve had a pint and caught up. Instead, we skipped the small talk and went right into the thick of it – radiation treatments and prognoses. Her dad is a journalist, and he’s writing a blog about his daily life.

I’m so proud of my family and the community they’re a part of in the hometown I so often deride. There’s much work left to do, but they call it the Walk of Hope for good reason. My own spirits are bolstered, and it just feels good to face my fears with action.

Thank you. Thank you all so very much for your support in words and donations. You’ll hear from me about this again next year.

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