In January 2012, Kelley Fox began to have digestive issues, unexplained weight loss, mystery bruises and uncontrollable itching.
"I was itching so much it woke me up at night," says Fox.
On May 2, Fox learned she had pancreatic cancer, Stage IIA. She was just 46 years old. Fox underwent surgery, chemo and radiation for the rest of the year.
"With the surgery, chemo and radiation, my overall five-year survival is approximately 25 percent. Not great betting odds in my opinion." she says. "But without surgery, five-year survival is only 6 percent."
Currently pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. It is estimated that the disease will become the second leading cause of cancer death by the year 2020.
Since her diagnosis, Fox has been vigilant in getting the word out about pancreatic cancer.
"If pancreatic cancer had only half the recognition that breast cancer does, we may begin to see strides in obtaining longer lives," she says. "Breast cancer survival has increased substantially since 1970 with an almost 95 percent survival rate. Pancreatic cancer survival has not changed at all in that same amount of time."
According to Fox, pancreatic cancer receives a fraction of cancer research funding. "It’s almost as if funding charities know that a cure and / or early detection is unattainable, and therefore don’t want to waste their money," says Fox. "This is what has made me the most upset about my diagnosis – not the disease, but the lack of funding."
PurpleStride is the signature event of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. This year, the 5K run and family-friendly walk takes place on Sunday, May 17 at Miller Park. To register, donate or find out more information, go here.
This year’s "Champion of Hope" is WISN's Sally Severson, who joins co-emcees Mitch "Thunder" Nelles and Dave Murphy.
There are more than 50 PurpleStride events nationwide. These events raise awareness and funds that advance research and support patients and loved ones.
Fox has participated in the past two Strides.
"The sea of purple is overwhelming. It’s a great way to get the community involved and share our stories as survivors," says Fox. "There aren’t many of us. Several of my fellow warriors have passed this year and it’s devastating. I do all that I can to bring awareness."
On a daily basis, Fox does what she can to raise awareness.
"I wear purple constantly, I have a huge tattoo to get people to ask me what it’s about, I bring my ‘Pancreatic Cancer Sucks’ sign to many gatherings," she says. "It is so important for people to know about this disease. To know the symptoms since there is no early detection. So many times it’s too late and the cancer has metastasized."
Today, Fox is healthy and cancer-free. She spends time with her family – her husband, son, daughter-in-law, daughter and grandchildren. She continues to work at a law firm in Lake Forest, Ill. – where she has worked for 21 years – and loves to cook for her family.
"Another great fact about PurpleStride is that all the money raised goes directly to research," says Fox. "There are no middle men."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.