From helplessness to GiveHope

Beth Sininger Flege, her husband Tom Flege and step-daughter Chris Flege Zimmer

Beth Sininger Flege, Tom Flege, Susan (Pavlech) Hunt and Bill Hunt

By KIM SULLIVAN

It wasn’t just passion that spurred Susan (Pavlech) Hunt to form the nonprofit, GiveHope. There was a lot of panic in the beginning. And the feeling there was nothing she could do.

It wasn’t a feeling she liked.

“On Dec. 14, 2010, I got a phone call telling me my best friend (Beth Sininger Flege) had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was 52 years old, and her only symptoms had been indigestion that had started two weeks earlier. A cancer diagnosis of any kind is tough for a patient and her family to hear, but the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is an immediate reaction of ‘there is no hope’.”

After a rough night with Flege and her family, the two women found themselves the next day at the University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute, where they met with Dr. Syed Ahmad and Dr. Olugbenga Olowokure. Though the doctors were helpful, they couldn’t give much definite information. It was more like: Every case of pancreatic cancer is different … Chemo might or might not work … Radiation might help … Surgery is a slim option, but they’d try. All they could do was wait and see.

For Beth Sininger Flege’s account of her journey, see the Tributes section of givehopepc.com .

Research told Hunt this: Pancreatic cancer ranks in the top four of all cancer deaths, behind breast, lung and colon cancer. The five-year survival rate is 6 percent, a number that has not changed for 30 years.

Dr. Ahmad told her: “If someone asked you which cancer affects the most people – leukemia or pancreatic cancer – how would you answer? Thanks to nationwide awareness campaigns, most would say leukemia. But in reality, the number of people affected by each disease is about the same. The shocking truth is that pancreas cancer has a higher fatality rate than all other cancers. Clearly, there is a critical need for more effective drug treatments, early detection and prevention. And the only way that can happen is with increased community awareness and more research.”

That was the “aha!” moment. There was something she could do.

So Hunt and her friends started a fund called “GiveHope.” She wanted no other patients or family members to hear the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, with no hope.

GiveHope is a volunteer-run organization that supports Southwest Ohio cancer patients and their families, as well as UC cancer researchers. The goal is to expedite progress in the fight against pancreatic cancer.

Since its inception in 2010, GiveHope and its primary corporate partner, BSI Engineering, have raised more than $215,000 for pancreatic cancer research, education, prevention and awareness programs, with a focus on the Greater Cincinnati area.

GiveHope has endowed more than $37,000, including 25 percent of all donations, to support future research and awareness programs. In addition to BSI, partners have included CTI Restaurants Uno and Taco Bell, Gold Star Chili and the UC Pancreas Team.

On the personal side, many have contributed support, starting with the Sininger and Flege Families, BSI Engineering employees and their families, Bob Vogt, Patti Groneck, Ruthman Family, Jim family, Reed Family, Barlow Family, Judy Rismiller, Harold Cook, Bill Hunt and Helen Franz-LeVay.

GiveHope has been involved in several efforts to foster advancement in pancreatic cancer research, including initial funding for various research studies. In March 2015, GiveHope donated $10,000 to fund a UC study designed to examine the protocol for patients with operable pancreatic cancer to have chemotherapy and targeted radiation before surgery. The hope is that this research can yield discoveries that could someday raise the survival rate among operable pancreatic cancer patients from 6 percent to over 50 percent.

Today, Flege is still Hunt’s best friend and one of the 6 percent – a five-year survivor. She still has challenges to face, but with each year new research is giving her hope for a permanent cure.

 

Two fundraising events are coming up soon, both put on by people with personal ties to pancreatic cancer.

  • The Gloria Jim Memorial Golf Outing, April 16, Neumann Golf Course, will be hosted by Eness Jim, who runs the restaurant Jim & Jack’s on the River, a West Side institution for years. Jim lost his wife and brother to pancreatic cancer this past fall.
  • The second annual Play On Concert, May 20, at Sharonville Convention Center. Inspired by the fight against pancreatic cancer by musician Chuck Reed of DV8, the concert will feature local bands DV8, The Rusty Griswolds, Danny Frazier Band, Shut Up and Drive, Brent James and the Vintage Youth, plus guest star Todd Pettygrove of Shooting Sta

 

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