By Staci Wolfson
Gwendolyn Pace was 57 when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer Jan. 14, 2004. She passed away only two months later.
With symptoms that could easily be mistaken for problems less deadly, pancreatic cancer is often caught too late, and only 3 percent of people diagnosed live for at least five years following the diagnosis.
|Under Armour Baltimore Running Festival
Date: Oct. 13, 2007
What: Baltimore Marathon, Half-Marathon, Team Relay, 5K Race and Kids Fun Run
Where: Begins at Camden and Russell Streets
When: Marathon kicks off at 8 a.m.
But now, three years after Pace’s death, her daughter is doing something to change those statistics. Majesta Hartley is running her second half-marathon in Saturday’s Under Armour Baltimore Running Festival to benefit research of pancreatic cancer.
“This cancer is the least funded and it’s so aggressive when you’re diagnosed,” Hartley said. “My mom was diagnosed on Jan. 14, and she was dead on March 19. I just wish enough research had been done before she died that could have saved her life. Because by the time that there are any symptoms for this disease, it’s too late. That’s the most important thing for me in participating with this organization.”
14,000 runners are expected to compete in this year's marathon.
She’s not alone. Hartley joined the Pancreatica Pacesetters, a training team created by pancreatica.org, a Web site maintained and funded by the Lorenzen Cancer Foundation. The team provides a training schedule, coach, entry fees and support for the runners.
Hartley’s teammate, Jennifer Ladeveze, lost her father Ernie Ladeveze Jr. to pancreatic cancer earlier this year. Looking for a way to raise funds for pancreatic cancer research, Ladeveze found pancreatica.org and investigated. She learned that the money she earned would go toward finding a genetic marker to help doctors diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier, thereby increasing survival rates.
Ladeveze said she has run half-marathons before, but Saturday’s would be her first raising money while training. “Every time I work on the flier that I sent out to my family and friends, and every time I work on my Web site, every time I receive a donation, every time I go run, I just cry,” she said. “It’s very emotional. It’s good, but it’s a lot of emotions that I didn’t think I was going to be experiencing.”
The Pacesetters are one of a number of charity teams training for the races in Saturday’s event. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, the National Parkinson Foundation’s Movers and Shakers and Team Sadie to benefit the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center all have runners training for the marathon, half-marathon, team relay and 5K race.
Al Grintalis of Towson will be running for the Team in Training. After being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, a form of lymphoma, two years ago, he made it through chemotherapy and decided he wanted to do something to help raise money for the Leaukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Jennifer Ladeveze will run this year's half-marathon in honor of her father.
“Since I was lucky enough to survive, and get through my chemo, and lymphoma, I needed to give back,” Grintalis said. “It’s a karma thing, you know?”
Saturday’s half-marathon will be his first, and the training has provided a rocky road. While some runners may struggle to stay motivated through aches and pains and hours of pounding the pavement, Grintalis has faced a more formidable adversary during the course of his training.
Two weekends before the running festival, Grintalis underwent surgery to remove a tumor in his throat doctors had found only two weeks earlier. The tumor was not malignant, and Grintalis only ceased training for a few days; he hasn’t found it difficult to stay motivated.
“I remember where I was two years ago,” he said. “I remember where people are right now, I know where people are going to be, and I think about the money I've raised and what I'm doing this for. And I just run.”
While runners like Hartley, Ladeveze and Grintalis are putting in miles to raise money for causes, others are doing it to show the world what can be done.
Edgar Suris, an 18-year-old from Lake Mary, Fla., will be taking his first trip outside of his hometown to come to Baltimore for the Running Festival. With the help of a guide from the C-Different Foundation, Suris, who is blind, will run his first marathon.
Yirefu Birhanu won last year's Baltimore Marathon with a time of 2 hours, 15 minutes and 26 seconds.
After his 14-year-old brother told him he couldn’t do it, Suris set out to prove him wrong.
“I’m basically proving to him, and to people that a visually impaired person can do a certain kind of thing like a marathon or a triathlon, or can do things in life like that,” he said.
So when the Under Armour Baltimore Marathon kicks off Saturday, it won’t just be about the fastest time, the 26.2-mile distance or the first runner to cross the finish line. It will be about overcoming the odds, doing what seemingly can’t be done and giving millions hope for a healthier future.
“If you have the right mindset, then you can accomplish it,” Hartley said. “And if you have a purpose for doing it, you can accomplish it. It’s really a mind thing when you’re running such long distances that if you tell yourself that you can’t do it, you won’t be able to do it. But if you tell yourself that you can, you can do it. I know it’s really simple, but it’s what works for me.”
Issue 2.41: October 11, 2007