Pancreatic cancer walk dedicated in memory of founder
There will be a noticeable void at the upcoming Milford-based Lustgarten walk to raise money for pancreatic cancer research. Sharon Varga, who founded the walk seven years ago after beating the disease, died Nov. 8 at the age of 57, 10 years after she was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
This year’s walk will be in memory of Varga, who offered hope to many people battling cancer.
It will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.. Saturday, May 18, starting at Walnut Beach.
Varga, who lived in Milford, actually beat pancreatic cancer, and while she would eventually die from another form of cancer, she became a poster child of hope.
Varga was 47 years old in 2008 when she learned she had pancreatic cancer. She underwent what is called a Whipple procedure, which the Mayo clinic describes as “a complex operation to remove the head of the pancreas, the first part of the small intestine, the gallbladder and the bile duct.”
Varga was in the hospital eight days — in a medically-induced coma for two days. Twelve weeks of chemotherapy followed.
In 2013, at age 52, Varga had been cancer free for three years. She was a survivor. She had beaten one of the most ominous of cancers.
But then during a routine follow-up visit, her doctor found spots on her lungs, according to Sharon’s husband Steve, who noted that his wife never smoked. At first doctors thought the pancreatic cancer had moved to her lungs, but later determined it was lung cancer.
All the while battling this second form of cancer, she remained upbeat.
“She worked until the middle of last year,” Steve said. “She was always positive.”
But he added, “Fatigue was an evil thing.”
Over the years, Varga talked about battling cancer, saying things like: “You appreciate life more: You don’t sweat the small stuff.” She resolved to do what she had to do without complaining.
She let her family know that she wanted them to continue the walk after she died.
There was no question that they would carry it forward, but Steve said it’s hard doing it without her.
Since its inception, the Milford walk has raised more than $450,000 for pancreatic cancer research, according to Steve and Sharon’s son, Daniel.
“The event has grown from 125 attendees up to 600 last year,” Daniel said in a letter announcing the event.
The family, also including son Michael and close friend Jessica Tucci, set a substantial goal this year: $118,000, which is significant because it reflects the Nov. 8 date on which Sharon died.
The fund-raiser is organized through the Lustgarten Foundation for pancreatic cancer research.
“Being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is devastating,” wrote Lisa Crowley, a walk coordinator, in a Jan. 23 fundraising letter. “With limited treatment options and a five-year survival rate in the single digits, we are committed to increasing the number of survivors by funding research to develop earlier detection methods and more effective treatments.”
Crowley said 100% of the money donated goes to pancreatic cancer research.
The walk will start at Walnut Beach, and then run a three-mile course along the boardwalk from Walnut Beach to Silver Sands beach, and back.
Local radio personality Brian Smith will emcee the event.
Registration will open at 9 a.m. and the walk begins at 10.
Pre-registration, $50, can be done at lustgarten.org by clicking on the “Join a Walk” link on the bottom of the main page. Day of the event registration is $60.
For information call 1-866-789-1000, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 516-737-1561.