Sarah Gorczany couldn’t help but giggle at the memory of her father flipping his collar and strutting down the fashion runway last fall.
Described by his wife Marie Gorczany as a shy, mellow “good guy,” Steve Gorczany was happiest in jeans and a T-shirt while spending time with his family.
“He actually got talked into being the model for the fashion show. … He was laughing the entire time, the entire time,” Sarah said.
If Steve hadn’t been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Sarah wouldn’t have that memory because Steve was walking down the runway for a fundraiser for pancreatic cancer. But she’d rather have her dad with her.
In the fall of 2010, the Town of Brookfield family’s life was about to change — but they didn’t know it yet. Steve started experiencing back pains, but doctors were unable to determine the cause.
Steve retired in January 2011 from AT&T where he worked for more than three decades — he met Marie there when the company was Wisconsin Bell — but his happy retirement phase didn’t last long.
“It just sucked that he retired and he didn’t get to enjoy it,” Marie said.
He soon after was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Steve started treatments in March 2011 but lost a lot of weight as the disease progressed.
“He was ready to quit and stop treatments,” Marie said.
But he didn’t quit. They cut down his treatments, which helped him feel better. He was able to get strong enough that the family was able to take one final vacation in Florida last fall.
“He did a lot of things on his bucket list,” Marie said. “Sarah got him down on the field for a Brewers game. She called the Brewers before the game. They had an autographed ball waiting for him, which was really neat. He went to Chicago on architectural tour, fishing on Lake Michigan, and a lot of Brewers games with his friend, Chuck.”
But it wasn’t enough in the end.
“He was doing pretty good,” Marie said. “(But in) January, he started feeling crappy again. Eventually they said ‘the treatments aren’t working,’ which is pretty typical of pancreatic cancer. They told us one to two months, and he passed away 10 days later.
“It was so fast from that point. He didn’t quite make it — he wanted to make it a year from his diagnosis.”
Fighting for Increased Awareness, Research
Sarah, a junior at Catholic Memorial High School, is advocating for increased awareness and research to find a cure for the disease that killed her father. She hopes to work in a medical career in the future, but in the meantime, she's doing what she can to help others fight against pancreatic cancer.
The survival rate for pancreatic cancer is low, and research has been limited. Late detection of the disease, as in Sarah’s father’s diagnosis, leads to the increased fatalities from the disease.
The local affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is holding a PurpleLight National Vigil for Hope at Marquette University from 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday. The event is free and is designed to call attention to the deadly cancer.
According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, pancreatic cancer is:
- The fourth-leading cause of cancer death.
- The only most commonly diagnosed cancers with a five-year relative survival rate in the single digits.
- Anticipated to move from the fourth to the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. by 2020.
- The projected number of new pancreatic cancer cases and pancreatic cancer deaths will more than double by 2030.
- The number of deaths from pancreatic cancer will exceed those from breast and colorectal cancer as early as 2015, and be surpassed only by the loss of life from lung cancer.