Running for Hope

Posted On Sep 12, 2022

Topic: Announcement, Hide on Homepage, Real Talk: Survivor, Patient & Family Stories, Your Source for Breaking News & Inspirational Stories
Running for Hope


My mom and I have matching “warrior” tattoos. Hers is on her ankle and says “warrior” and includes a purple heart. Mine contains an inspirational quote on my thigh: Faith whispers to the warrior, “You cannot withstand the storm.” The warrior whispers back, “I am the storm.”

To say my incredible mom, Hope Quinn, is a warrior is an understatement. She has been fighting pancreatic cancer for the past three years, and she is the strongest woman I know. She is the storm.

In  September 2019, my mom asked my sister Danielle to take her to the emergency room at our local Long Island hospital because she was feeling extremely tired, suffering from back pain and experiencing very itchy feet. She was supposed to leave with my dad for their home in Florida and she was hoping her symptoms would be quickly and easily diagnosed so she could continue with her scheduled trip. However, at the emergency room, she was given multiple tests, which led to scans, which led to a physician’s assistant coldly and without explanation giving her a piece of paper with her diagnosis—pancreatic cancer—the same disease that killed her grandfather after just a few weeks nearly 60 years ago. My mom was only 62 and otherwise healthy, and there were no words to describe our shock, fear and anger. Our whole family came to the emergency room to rally around her.

My mom’s first thought was, “I’m not going anywhere.” Between my dad, my sister and I and our spouses, and her three grandchildren (and now a fourth on the way), she was determined not to miss any moments and milestones with her family. I kept replaying in my mind so many memories of times with my mom, including our mother-son dance when I got married in 2018. I promised to support my mom however I could through what I knew would be the most difficult journey of her life.

Luckily, one of my aunts is a nurse and one is a doctor, and they immediately arranged appointments at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. Because my mom’s tumor hadn’t metastasized to other organs, she was a candidate for the Whipple procedure, which provides the best chance for long-term survival. Dr. Beth Schrope performed her Whipple surgery in October, and then Dr. Susan Bates placed her on the powerful chemotherapy FOLFIRINOX in December. She was grateful to complete 80% of the FOLFIRINOX course, as many patients don’t make it that far with this grueling therapy. She then endured 24 out of the prescribed 27 radiation therapy doses, until it felt like the inside of her body was literally being burned. She experienced debilitating side effects from these treatments, including neuropathy and “chemo brain.” However, the radiation ended in July 2020, and for the next nine months, she was cancer-free.

In April 2021, her cancer unfortunately returned and metastasized. Doctors found a spot on her liver, which they removed in June, and again she felt well for several months. During a routine scan in April 2022, nodules on her right lung and hip appeared, and doctors repeatedly drained fluid from her lung. She started chemotherapy again, this time with the Gemcitabine/Abraxane combination, but at the end of three cycles there was unfortunately no tumor change. Dr. Bates added cisplatin to see if that would help with shrinkage, and we are now anxiously awaiting her next scans to find out.

It has been so important for my mom to have my dad and the rest of her family around her as a support system and as her advocates. My sister and I speak to her constantly, and my two aunts help ensure she’s receiving the best medical care possible. Humor helps us get through the tough times, and her love for her family and her perseverance motivate her to fight every day.

After last year’s TCS New York City Marathon, I saw an announcement on the Lustgarten Foundation’s Instagram page that the Foundation was interested in securing members for 2022’s race. I reached out to the Foundation and was later selected as team member. While I’ve always been very athletic, I’ve never enjoyed running. In fact, my parents thought I was kidding when I signed up! The silver lining has been that running and training for the marathon have become so therapeutic for me and are excellent ways to cope with the enduring stress of knowing someone I love so much is facing a life-threatening disease.

Leading up to the marathon, my sister started a team in our mom’s honor to participate in the Foundation’s Long Island Walk for Research in October. We’re looking forward to joining others impacted by pancreatic cancer for a day of hope. We know research is crucial to saving lives, and we also know the Lustgarten Foundation plays a huge role in that research and in giving families the gift of more time together. And with 100% of every donation going to research, we know new advancements and breakthroughs that can help patients like my mom are possible.

When Dr. Bates became my mom’s oncologist, she vowed to help my mom fight this fight and asked her, “Are you ready for the roller coaster?” Both Dr. Bates and my mom know this disease has ups and downs and takes unexpected dips, twists and turns. No matter what, though, my family will always be along for the ride.

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