Raising Hope: From Fundraiser to Patient
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The Story of Kit Rudd
Supporting the Lustgarten Foundation’s promising research program is a cause I’ve been passionate about for years. In 2014, I started fundraising for the Lustgarten Foundation in memory of my mother-in-law, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2013. Capitalizing on my love for cooking and barbecuing, I began organizing an annual chili cookoff contest to benefit the Foundation and honor her legacy. I never imagined that just a few years later, this cause would become even more meaningful and personal.
In 2019, following the death of my father to a stroke, I committed to living a healthier lifestyle, changing my diet, and becoming an avid cyclist. On New Year’s Day 2022, I began experiencing vague abdominal symptoms and attributed them to overeating during the holiday season—something my body was no longer accustomed to! As I continued to experience increased abdominal discomfort and difficulty sleeping, I saw a doctor near my new home in Richmond, VA, who referred me to a gastroenterologist. My doctor suspected an ulcer and ordered an endoscopy and a CT scan. While I was waiting for my scheduled CT scan in February, I participated in a 25-mile bike race, where I scored my personal best on the course. Feeling healthy and exhilarated, I signed up for more races.
I had no idea the day after the race would be one of the hardest of my life: I had a scheduled CT scan and was in complete shock and disbelief when a walnut-sized mass was found in the middle of my pancreas. Given the location of the tumor, I hadn’t experienced extreme pain or jaundice, which made the diagnosis even more unbelievable. I waited nine excruciating days for an endoscopy to confirm the diagnosis, and during this time, my wife Sharon and I proactively researched treatment options and pancreatic cancer specialists. Getting diagnosed was a gut-punch and was absolutely soul-crushing, but I chose to focus all of my energy on what I needed to do to move forward and make the best of every day.
My oncologist at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Massey Cancer Center prescribed FOLFIRINOX, a chemotherapy so powerful I felt like I was training for one of the most grueling cycling events. Thanks to excellent advice from the Lustgarten Foundation, I sought a second opinion, where the doctors confirmed I was on the correct treatment. Luckily, the FOLFIRINOX was effective, and my CA-19-9, a test measuring cancer markers in the blood, dropped by 52% within a couple of months!
During my FOLFIRINOX treatment, I concentrated on eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, and I exercised as much as possible, not just to maintain my strength, but also because exercise helped me cope with all of the fear, anxiety, and uncertainty inherent in facing a life-threatening disease. I was fortunate to have a supportive employer and to have so many close friends and relatives reach out, even after my initial diagnosis period. I continued to spend time doing activities I love, including teaching classes for the Wounded Warrior Project, gardening, and engaging in my favorite (and delicious) pastime: grilling!
I was recently accepted into a clinical trial where treatment is administered via an infusion. When I arrived for my first day of the infusion, my doctor told me my scans and lab work done recently for the clinical trial revealed that my liver lesions were inactive. She explained that the chemotherapy had effectively done its job and as of now, I have no measurable cancerous activity in my liver! Since there’s no cancer to treat there, I’ve been released from the trial. My most recent MRI provided additional promising news—my pancreas tumor has continued to decrease in size and is largely inactive! The revised treatment plan is for me to resume my chemotherapy regimen with some modifications for the next six weeks and then have another round of scans. If those scans are stable, then I will likely start on an oral chemotherapy regimen. I couldn’t have asked for more encouraging news, especially during the holiday season.
Throughout this journey, my wife Sharon has been my rock and my hero. She is the strongest and most focused person I know and takes care of the correspondence and communications with my doctors. Despite the painful memories of her mother’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis and passing, she remains relentlessly positive and optimistic and is my staunchest advocate as I continue treatment.
I truly believe we’re on the cusp of significant breakthroughs, and that is why I’m so committed to contributing to pancreatic cancer-based charities and raising money for early detection and effective treatments. I appreciate the generosity of donors and encourage everyone touched by this disease to keep raising awareness and donating to the Lustgarten Foundation in support of our shared mission to transform pancreatic cancer into a curable disease.