20-year survivor of pancreatic cancer fights for others

Michael Fitzpatrick to walk for 24 hours to raise money for research

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. – He may only be one person, but Michael Fitzpatrick is determined to make strides in the battle against one of the nation's deadliest cancers.

Fitzpatrick's passion is personal: two decades ago he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

"I was the one person in 2 million back in 1999 and 2000 to have the rarest form of pancreatic cancer that is out there," Fitzpatrick said.

Friday, Fitzpatrick will do as he's done years before. He will walk 24 hours straight in an effort to raise funds for the Pancreatic Cancer Network.

"The reason I'm doing this is to spread the word," he said. "We need more money, more donations, more research."

His goal this time is $5,000.

"The missions of the organization, of course, is to raise awareness and double the survivor rate," Carlos Ayala, with the South Florida chapter of the organization, said.

Pancreatic cancer specialist Dr. Robert Donoway said annual fundraising effort like the Purple Strides Walks help raise funds to support research and bring new drug candidates to the forefront.

"There is a new therapy that shows that by blocking the gene interaction it could interfere with the actual proliferation and progression of the cancer cells, so whether it actually kills or slows cell growth is going to be an exciting new option," Donoway said.

Fitzpatrick's cancer returned in 2018, which sent him back to the hospital for more surgery, but he is determined to not give up.

"If I can just raise hope, it's not about me, it's about people who are out there suffering, going through chemo and radiation who can't get out of bed and walk," he said. "I'm going to walk for them."

Fitzpatrick's 24-hour walk begins Friday at 7 p.m. on Main Street in Oakland and lasts until 7 p.m. Saturday.

The annual Purple Strike Walk to raise funds for pancreatic cancer research will be held Nov. 17 at Florida International University.

To register, visit purplestride.org.

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