By: James Kirkpatrick
My name is James, I live in Los Angeles and my affiliation with the Hirshberg Foundation goes back 10 years now. In 2010, my son Christopher and a few friends participated in our first LA Cancer Challenge 5k Run. The LACC would become a run my mother would ask us to participate in every year, not knowing that later in life, I would be honoring my best friend and mother Dorothy who passed from pancreatic cancer in 2017.
My mother kept her diagnosis of having cancer to herself for years, not letting family nor friends know of her health condition and battle. She would complain about lower back aches and her appetite for food changed rapidly one year before her death. For 6 years my mother was also my grandmother’s caretaker which put a strain on my mothers’ health too. My grandmother Viola passed at the age of 100 in 2016. My mother’s health changed rapidly during this time. It was the fall of 2016 and she was visiting my sister in Atlanta, GA when she suffered a heart attack. Doctors ran many tests and discovered that her liver was not strong and found signs of cancer. With more tests, the doctor’s diagnosis was that her pancreas had all the signs of cancer. She was at stage 4. My mother was so ill she wasn’t able to return home to California. January 1, 2017 my mother lost her battle to pancreatic cancer. Christmas and the holidays have become very hard for me since.
After the loss of my mother I became more aware of the high risks African Americans face and how important it is to seek help. High blood pressure is prevalent in my family history. As well as different forms of cancer. I feel a need to express to people of color how pancreatic cancer can go undiagnosed if certain health issues are not presented to physicians. My mother decided to keep silent, and because of that it’s truly been a loss and a deep hole missing from my heart. Her cancer could have been prevented.
I also feel it’s going to take people like myself to continue to tell my story of my loss and NEVER GIVE UP the fight. I’ve shed a light on this disease with many friends and family, sharing what the Hirshberg Foundation Pancreatic Research is doing to crush this cancer out. I hope to see more outreach in the urban community as I continue to raise awareness amongst my running community. For 3 years now I’ve brought my running family, Movement Runners, to run the LACC 5K and walk/run for a cure.
When someone you love is dealing with cancer you learn more about yourself. What you’re made of and the strength you have to live for them as well as yourself. You learn what’s important and not to waste time. You find your voice to inspire, motivate and never give up.
Stories from survivors, families & friends touched by pancreatic cancer show the resilience and courage of the human spirit. We dedicate our time and effort each day to fight for a cancer-free future. Every story and every journey helps pave the way to that cure. Share your story, make a dedication and help raise awareness today.