Gary Sampson used to participate in the Light up the Lake walk for pancreatic cancer with his wife. Now, he participates for his wife.
Jennifer Sampson died in August after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.
While Jennifer received medical support, Sampson wasn’t prepared for the emotional trauma.
“There is no book, there is no human being that will tell you what you are going to go through — how you are going to feel, how often you cry, how often you laugh,” he said. “There’s nobody that can tell you that.”
After his wife died, Sampson sat on his deck for three weeks, mourning his loss in silence.
He said one of the most important choices he made was to talk about it.
Picking up the pieces, he turned to Craig’s Cause for support. On Saturday, Sampson took part in the Light up the Lake run, sharing his story with other participants.
Light up the Lake is an annual five-kilometre run hosted by the Craig’s Cause Pancreatic Cancer Society. This year, with hot coffee in one bottle and water in the other, 275 runners braved the cold in support of their friends and loved ones.
Stefanie Condon-Oldreive, director of Craig’s Cause, created the society in 2006 after her father, Craig Condon, died eight weeks after his diagnosis.
“It was very painful because we knew what we were dealing with. We knew pancreatic cancer was very deadly,” she said.
Condon-Oldreive remembers her father as a driven yet humble man. Craig was mindful about his symptoms, she said, making sure to receive second and third opinions on his diagnosis.
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer is expected to become the third leading cause of cancer deaths in 2019.
An estimated 5,800 Canadians will be diagnosed, while 5,200 Canadians will die from pancreatic cancer.
“We need more patients in treatment, we need more patients living longer, we need more patients in clinical trials,” said Condon-Oldreive. “Without all that, we cannot advance treatment for patients. Nothing can move forward.”
The Craig’s Cause initiative provides patients and aid workers with resources and encouragement to seek second opinions, offering financial aid through grants, and supporting research centres working to discover a cure.
Through his involvement with Craig’s Cause, Sampson has learned the importance of humour during the mourning process.
“When people say, ‘Is there anything I can do for you, let me know,’ I say, ‘Run in and grab me a Whopper,'” he said.
“We started that and now people show up with Whoppers. You need to find humour.”
About the author
Travis is a freelance journalist and event photographer based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia.