By Mark Allen Church
My Dad is “whipping the whipple”. Yes, it is true.
An avid swimmer and rower in the San Francisco Bay area for most of his life, Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early September, 2009. He had a pretty regular schedule of doctor appointments related to heart trouble and those frequent visits meant his overall health was monitored quite closely. His early diagnosis would prove to be key. They suggested the Whipple surgery and early on my Dad decided he was going to “whip the whipple”. He is a fighter and has plenty to live for. A little more than two weeks after being diagnosed he had the surgery.
When my Dad was in his late 40s, he started swimming and rowing in the San Francisco Bay area. He is a long time member of the South End Rowing Club at Aquatic Park and they sponsor an Alcatraz swim every year. As a young boy I was amazed and impressed watching him finish that Alcatraz swim, having grown up with the understanding that it wasn’t possible to swim from Alcatraz to the shore. Sharks, cold water, tides, all that! He was not fast, but he did finish. And he did NOT wear a wetsuit.
After I learned my Dad had pancreatic cancer I started looking into the disease. I was horrified to learn how rare it is for someone to live years past a diagnosis. I found the Hirshberg Foundation quite by chance. I was just looking for a 10k to keep in general shape and came across the LA Cancer Challenge. When I learned it was an event focused on raising money for Pancreatic Cancer Research I had a “lightbulb” moment. Wow, I could run AND raise money for this important cause which suddenly was quite important to me personally.
I was very impressed with the Hirshberg Foundation. Any time I had a question, someone would contact me directly. This is a very accessible and warm organization. The event was amazing, inspiring and very well organized. When I posted a picture of my run on Facebook, Agi herself contacted me with words of encouragement and I knew then that I had found a cause that I could take pride in and raise money for.
A lifetime goal! I signed up for the Alcatraz Invitational Swim taking place on September 17th, 2011. I soon realized it was a perfect opportunity to raise money for the Hirshberg Foundation.
When I talked to my Dad about the swim, his first question was, “Are you using a wetsuit”? I had to break the news to him that I was indeed going to be suited up, knowing that some light-hearted teasing would follow (and you can be sure it has!), but he was excited that I was planning on doing the swim. In fact, he plans on being in a pilot boat, helping support me during the actual swim!
Yes, my Dad is “whipping the whipple” and just received another all-clear report. He is still cancer-free more than one year after his surgery and is starting to put on some weight. I am so thankful to have more time with this man, my father, who has meant so much to me through the years. I am so thankful to be able to take on this swim and raise money for pancreatic cancer research at the same time. I am so thankful that he will be around to watch me take on this challenge and that his continued success can be an inspiration to others fighting this horrible disease. It can be beat! With your help and the help of the Hirshberg Foundation, I am not just hoping…I am helping.
Never give up…You can Hope, or you can Help…Help Us Whip The Whipple!!!