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Local sisters host run for pancreatic cancer

February 10, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Last year the number of people in the U.S. diagnosed with pancreatic cancer was 42,470. Five percent of those people will survive beyond five years. And two percent is the percentage that the National Cancer Institute budgeted last year to find a cure for pancreatic cancer. Now, a family on a quest for a cure hopes to change all of those numbers."I remember her passion for life and her passion for living," said Kristen Bardwil, co-founder of P.A.M.'s Run for Pancreatic Research. "She had a vigor that was contagious."

"My mom was an avid athlete. She was a loving mother, very involved in the community, and she was really able to make special connections with a lot of different people. She really had a gift in that way," said Jessica Bardwil, co-founder of P.A.M.'s Run for Pancreatic Research.

Pam Bardwil left that gift with her two daughters Kristen and Jessica. The two honor their mother by raising money to fight pancreatic cancer, a disease that killed Pam in the prime of her life.

"Pancreatic cancer is a very difficult illness and it really never receives the publicity that it deserves," said Dr. Raul Mena, medical director of the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center.

Dr. Mena was Pam's doctor and remembers her fondly. He says she faced her challenges bravely -- a 19-month battle against a disease that's extremely challenging to diagnose and treat.

"It's an area that is silent. We can't usually feel it. It requires special X-rays, or a procedure called an endoscopic ultrasound to get a good look at the pancreas," said Mena.

Once a patient is diagnosed, it's almost always too late. What doctors need is an early screening test and new tools for treatment.

But despite all these challenges, there isn't enough money. Only two percent of the National Cancer Institute's budget goes toward pancreatic cancer.

"It's time to make a change and to encourage research and get people talking about it," said Kristen.

On Saturday, Feb. 13, the girls are holding their second annual P.A.M.'s run in Westlake Village. The Bardwil's surpassed all expectations for their first run last year. They raised $60,000 and had 600 runners. This year, the goal is to raise a $100,000.

"One-hundred percent of all the money raised will be going directly to [pancreatic cancer] research," said Jessica.

"It's also about giving back to the community and celebrating life. And I think if we could accomplish both of those things, we've honored her correctly," said Kristen.

All proceeds from the 5K/10K walk/run will benefit the Lustgarden Foundation, which funds clinical trials for early detection and treatment.