Raising Hope: From Fundraiser to Patient

Posted On Aug 15, 2022

Topic: Announcement, Hide on Homepage, Your Source for Breaking News & Inspirational Stories
Raising Hope: From Fundraiser to Patient

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!

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.

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