Local women to honor moms at pancreatic cancer walk
By Joyce DeWallace, Contributing Writer
Westborough – “Do More for a Cure” was the name of the first team co-captained by Molly McCarthy and Crystal Swenson to raise money for pancreatic cancer research. Both women’s mothers had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer within weeks of each other. The two daughters supported and comforted each other, and decided together to try to improve the odds of surviving this most lethal cancer. Their first walk raised almost $8,000. Now they are doing it again.
The 4th Annual Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk/Run will take place Sunday, April 28, at the Westborough Office Park, 1700 West Park Drive, Westborough.
Proceeds will benefit the Lustgarten Foundation, which was created in 1998 to provide resources for the diagnosis, treatment, cure and prevention of pancreatic cancer. It also provides support for newly diagnosed patients. 100 percent of all donations go directly to finding a cure. Through the generosity of Cablevision Systems Corporation, all administrative expenses are underwritten for the organization.
Over the past three years, the Westborough event has raised over $188,000. Last year’s race involved over 500 people; the organizers expect more this year. Maria Rydelek, the event coordinator, lost her mother to pancreatic cancer in 2008, and now works on the race to honor her memory. More volunteers are needed, organizers said, to help with parking, registration, serve as route guides, take pictures for team photos, and help set up and clean up.
Molly did her first walk with her family the same week her mother, Marianne McCarthy, died. The family learned about the Lustgarten Foundation from her doctor about six months before she succumbed to her cancer. Molly immediately started fundraising and working on sponsorships for the race.
“[Marianne] jumped on it. She was all over it. She wrote thank you cards and checked the website every night,” Molly said. “It showed her how many people cared. Most of all, she was doing something positive to fight her disease.”
Molly was a student at Curry College in Milton when she learned that her mother had been diagnosed with cancer.
“It was the worst day in my life. I heard ‘cancer’ and didn’t focus on the pancreatic part. I learned quickly how horrible a disease pancreatic cancer is. The survival rate is only 6 percent. 74 percent of the people diagnosed die within the first year,” she said.
Molly adjusted her schedule to be in Shrewsbury to help her mother with her treatments. Besides working on the pancreatic cancer fundraiser, the two women spent as much as they could with family and friends and colleagues from Marianne’s job at Courion in Westborough. They also took a special cruise together on the St. Lawrence River.
“It was a struggle; she was sick and in pain, but we had time together without doctors; no phone, no Internet, no school work, just time together. We both loved the ocean,” Molly said.
The impact of her mother’s struggle with pancreatic cancer and her death changed the way Molly looks at life, she said.
“All those things that bother you, they just don’t bother you as much. It reminds you to live life differently,” she noted.
The 2012 race was their final work together. Molly said she hopes that her ongoing efforts at fundraising and organizing the event serve as a fitting tribute to her moth and help others who are struggling with this form of cancer.
Registration for the event begins at 8 a.m. Both the 5k walk/run and 10k will begin at 9:30 a.m. A Kids Fun Run for children under 8 will also be held, starting at 9 a.m. Kids ages 8 to 12 can participate in a one-mile run starting at 10:30 a.m. Online registration is available at www.lustgarten.org under “event information.” Those interested in volunteering can contact Rydelek at email@example.com or Molly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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