Ann Zediker, of Naperville, and Lindsey Doherty, of Bourbonnais, found their lives intertwined when both of their fathers died of pancreatic cancer. For the two women, finding the Lustgarten Foundation was about more than raising awareness and research funds; it was about their own healing.
Zediker’s father Phil died in 2010 at age 62.
“I’m almost 40, and I had my dad around for a lot of my life,” Zediker said. “My dad walked me down the aisle when I got married and was there to see my kids when they were born.”
But for Zediker’s brother, who was 21 when their father died, he wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience those life events with him.
She stumbled on Lustgarten when she was searching for a way to heal and honor her dad.
The New York-based foundation started after Cablevision vice chairman Marc Lustgarten died of the disease at age 52 in 1998.
“There was absolutely nothing available to him,” said Ann Walsh, the director of events for the organization.
After Lustgarten died, Cablevision started the foundation in 1998 as a way to raise awareness about the disease that is the fourth leading cause of cancer. It has no cure, no effective treatment and no early warning. The life expectancy after diagnosis is six to nine months. More than 39,000 Americans will die of the disease this year.
The Lustgarten Foundation has since donated $90 million to pancreatic research, and this year will host 30 walks across the country to both raise awareness and funds. One-hundred percent of donations go to the cause because Cablevision underwrites all administrative costs.
“I bombarded them with about 100 emails,” Zediker said, of her tenacity to become involved with Lustgarten.
While there had been a private family walk previously in Naperville, Zediker started a public walk, which is marking its fourth year Sunday.
For the first time, Zediker won’t be able to lead the walk this year; so, Doherty has stepped up to take the reins.
Doherty’s father died at age 60 in spring 2011 after living less than a year once he was diagnosed. When he complained of stomach pain, his primary care doctor thought it was a hernia. But Doherty’s mother, a vascular technician, performed an ultrasound and found the mass.
While she couldn’t diagnosis the cancer specifically, she knew something was wrong.
After he died, Doherty felt the restlessness that often accompanies the loss of a loved one, especially when there was little to help the person. A Google search linked her to Lustgarten and then to Zediker.
“I didn’t know anything about pancreatic cancer,” said the 29-year-old. “I needed to get involved.”
This year 35 people are on her team, honoring her dad.
Zediker believes Naperville is the perfect place for the walk. She has lived here for 16 years and sees how people are generous and want to help.
“I knew when we needed help, the community would be here,” she said.
She also knows that, with at least 200 walkers this year, more people are learning about the disease.
“It’s not as well known as some cancers, but it will be,” Zediker said.
Each walk, each person who participates and donates, is a step forward to helping others in the future.
Because there is no cure for pancreatic cancer, some survivors take part in the walk. Mostly it’s family members and people who have been affected by a loss.
While the awareness and education are important, it all comes back to the healing.
“It’s a way to come together as a family as an emotional adventure,” Zediker said.
Healing while helping others is a perk, too.Tags: Good Cause
What: Fourth annual Naperville Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk
When: Registration is at 8 a.m.; walk starts at 9 a.m. Sunday, July 27
Cost: $50 preregistration, $60 walk-in
Where: Riverwalk Grand Pavilion
Web: To register, donate, and for more information, visit www.lustgarden.org