In Memory of Walter Koch
Reprinted from Walter’s 2019 LACC page:
I am a lifelong resident of Southern California and I’ve been athletic all my life. Good health was something I earned but that changed overnight in the spring of 2015 when I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The cancer had already spread to my liver and stomach and my doctors quietly told Kate that I had a couple months to live. I’m still here more than four years later but it has been a rollercoaster ride for sure.
My oncologist put me on a very aggressive chemotherapy cocktail – a knockout punch – and I was very sick for months. I could barely make it from my bed to the couch, too sick to read or watch television, and I spent many days just staring at the ceiling. I also had trouble eating and I lost more than a third of my body weight. The good news is that after about six months, I started to feel better. I was able to read, watch television and even get out for short walks. A year out, I started taking short bike rides around the neighborhood and as time has passed, I’ve ventured farther afield. I try to get a bike ride in every day.
The cancer returned to my abdominal lining this past January and I was given another knockout course of chemotherapy. The cocktail worked well and my tumor markers soon dropped but they are up again this week. Like I said, it’s been a rollercoaster ride. I get chemotherapy most weeks but I do what I can do and I am hoping for the best.
I am a survivor but I am an exception to the rule when it comes to pancreatic cancer. Far too little attention is paid to it because it doesn’t have a large survivor network like other forms of cancer do. Meanwhile, it’s rising steadily – new cases have nearly doubled in the last two decades – and it now claims more lives in the US than breast cancer, liver cancer, kidney cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, melanoma, lymphoma or leukemia does. It even claims more lives than AIDS did at its peak (41,699 in 1995).
The Hirshberg Foundation is one of the few organizations doing anything about this dreadful disease and they will funnel the proceeds of the LA Cancer Challenge directly to pancreatic cancer researchers in the form of seed grants so please join me at UCLA on October 20th or make a donation.
I do what I can do but let’s do what we can do.
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