By Kevin Powell
My stepdad was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer in June 2010. There were no clear symptoms other than the fact that he was not feeling well and was experiencing weight loss. The doctors had initially thought it was pancreatitis, but after living with these random symptoms for four to five months, he finally received his diagnosis—pancreatic cancer. And now he is fighting the fight of his life.
I grew up in California, but my parents divorced when I was in the 3rd grade. Fifteen years ago, my mom moved to Florida, where she eventually met my step-dad. They have been together ever since. I have so much joy knowing that my mom is so happy. I can also say that my step-dad and I have developed a father-son relationship over the past eleven years. He enjoys sharing stories with us about being a retired Master Sargent where he served as a Paratrooper in the army. Now I find it funny that he has a fear of flying to LA to visit me! It is difficult knowing my step-dad is enduring his treatment in another state, but we make it a special occasion to talk on a regular basis.
Through my step-dad’s diagnosis, our family has grown to understand that every moment and holiday we celebrate and share together is so special! My wedding date was in September 2010, only a few months after my step-dad’s diagnosis. I remember how much it meant to my step-dad that he was able to be at my wedding. Even though he wasn’t able to stand as my best man – he had started his exhaustive chemotherapy and radiation treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Florida, which caused him to lose 70-80 pounds – he was still present and that meant so much to all of us. My family was also able to come together to have a big party in a hall to celebrate my step-dad and mom’s 60th birthdays…those are the times that create memories and remind me that life is so precious.
My step-dad is a great man—a man who inspires me.
I was introduced to the Hirshberg Foundation through JR286 and Agron, clients of my employer, Union Bank. Thanks to Jon Hirshberg, the son of Ron Hirshberg, I ran my first LA Cancer Challenge (LACC) in 2004 with Union Bank, who was one of the event sponsors. I am proud to say that I have continued the commitment that Union Bank established with the LACC in 2004. Little did I know then that six years later I would be running the LA Cancer Challenge while truly understanding what it meant to raise money for a loved one touched by pancreatic cancer. In 2011 I decided to put a team together in honor of my step-dad. We named our team Allen’s Army. Not only was my step-dad a fighter in the army, but he is currently in the toughest battle of his life against this disease. In only three weeks, I put a team together in Los Angeles and my mom and step-dad put a team together in Florida. Those two groups, made up of more than 40 supporters, were set to walk at the same time on the east coast and the west coast. We even had family friends set their clock on their cruise to Spain – they hopped on a treadmill at 9am LA time and ran a 5K. We were running together across the world for one cause – to honor a great man, Allen. This year Allen’s Army raised close to $4000.00 and I placed third in my age division!!!! The event really touches all those that participate, both near and far. It is an event that has heart! One aspect of the event that is so special is the fact that the shot-gun starters for each run share their own personal stories. What struck me most was the way that every person there has a commonality. Whether it was a poster, balloon, or a t-shirt, we were striving to achieve the same active goal in the battle against pancreatic cancer. As I said earlier, it is hard to have my step-dad fighting his battle across the country. I appreciate that the LA Cancer Challenge offers me the opportunity to participate as an active step in raising money and awareness so that research can be done for an early detection method and for the cure.
I will say it again: my step-dad inspires me. His will to press on while living with pancreatic cancer is amazing. I am proud to call him my step-dad!