Wage Hope: Loss to pancreatic cancer inspires one of our own - | WBTV Charlotte

Wage Hope: Loss to pancreatic cancer inspires one of our own

Ava Strickland Lightsey (center) with WBTV's Robbie Thomas and his wife. Ava Strickland Lightsey (center) with WBTV's Robbie Thomas and his wife.
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

It was only a few months ago I learned what "Wage Hope" really means. WBTV’s Director of Marketing Robby Thomas had invited me to a meeting to talk with reps from The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network about partnering for PurpleStride 2016. 

Admittedly, I didn’t know much about pancreatic cancer. But I have since learned why we must "Wage Hope" and raise money for researchers who are trying to find a way of detecting this aggressive cancer early. Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer is often only detected in advanced stages.

I knew Robby, who tackles everything with a gusto that is infectious, would really make sure we could help spread the word about the September 10 event. But it wasn’t until I opened an email from Robby that I knew his enthusiasm for THIS cause, came from his own, tragic loss to pancreatic cancer.

He wrote:

I wage hope for my cousin’s memory.  My wife & I became involved with Pancreatic Cancer Action Network when my cousin, Ava Strickland Lightsey, was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer in 2010.  After battling for a little over a year and receiving the best treatments available, she passed away at the age of 46.  I was completely caught off guard by this cancer I’d never heard of that viciously attacked her body.  I was also stunned to see how little the medical community knew about it, so we signed up for a 5K and started raising money with the help of “Ava’s Army” – friends and family who were also devastated to lose Ava and her generous, honest spirit.  Since then, we’ve raised thousands.

I ultimately became Affiliate Chair for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Raleigh-Durham Affiliate before moving to Charlotte and I am thoroughly impressed with this organization.  It’s a small, but well-organized network of nationwide volunteers who are determined to create an impact in this fight.  I’ve seen firsthand how they support research and patients, and I appreciate their strategy for funding innovative science.  The team here in Charlotte is made up of some of the best people our community has to offer.

Now, I’m thankful to have a leadership role with WBTV that provides me with the opportunity to say “yes” to a media sponsorship for PurpleStride.  I’m especially grateful to you, Maureen, for championing our efforts.  I think our partnership combined with Head Coach Ron Rivera’s substantial involvement helps give this cause the momentum it deserves to keep tracking toward doubling survival rates by 2020.  

I look forward to helping Team #WBTVandMe surpass its goals!

Robby, thank you for leading this cause at WBTV! We will remember Ava when we run or walk September 10 at Marshall Park. If you’re reading this, I want you to be there too!

Come "Wage Hope" and cheer on those who are fighting a very tough fight. And help us lift up those families, like Robby’s, who know just how brutal this disease can be. 

To join our team, #WBTVandMe, click here.

To learn more about the event details, click here.

Follow me on Facebook for updates, and share stories of your experience with pancreatic cancer and how it’s touched someone in your life by clicking here.

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