Copyright © Fran Burrows Play for Purple Cornhole Tournament & Tailgate Party. All rights reserved.
After registering for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network's PurpleStride 5K one Summer afternoon, we came with an idea to raise a few dollars towards our team goal. The idea was to host a BBQ at Lisa's, and have a small gathering and play cornhole. Everyone would throw in a few dollars and compete against one another for bragging rights. After some discussion and debating, along with our ambitious sales-like personalities, we decided to go big or go home! The Play for Purple Cornhole Tournament & Tailgate Party was born; A large 32 team tournament. Our friends at Gnarly Barley gave approval for our takeover one Sunday, and the planning began. The event date was set for October 20th, 2013 (the month of Fran's birthday).
Originally from West Haven, CT, with family close by throughout our childhood, we spent a lot of time together. Actually, we were “that” family that all took a ride together when we went to CVS. My brother and I were involved in sports throughout elementary and high school and our parents didn’t miss a cross country/track meet, softball game, cheerleading competition, prom; nothing. They were actually given a trophy at my senior night banquet for “Most Loyal Lauralton Fans.” Our parents we really involved and hands on with our lives. Our house was the place to go. Mom and Dad always welcomed our friends like they were their own. We hated when Dad chased us with the video camera but we are thankful today for those videos. Lee and I both went to Quinnipiac College, as did our Dad, close enough to home, yet far enough to receive “care packages” from Mom and Dad and enjoy Sunday suppers with our family. We’d vacation in Orlando multiple times a year hoping to eventually call this home. Lee graduated Quinnipiac in 1991 and moved to New Jersey, and Lisa, in 1996, and moved to Orlando, Florida. Our parents...still didn’t miss a beat. Lee and Mili had two girls, Loren and Devyn, and boy were grandma and grandpa proud. In 1999, our parents relocated to Orlando to fulfill their lifelong dream. Jobs at Animal Kingdom, Tower of Terror, and the Sea World dolphin pool were a blast for them. They loved it, simply loved it. We are so thankful that our parents lived out this dream.
They really enjoyed nightly strolls through Disney’s Boardwalk, Downtown Disney, Sea World, and occasionally ice cream at Twistee Treat. When they weren’t out and about they were typically sitting on their “lanai” looking out at the wildlife behind the house. Their dream was cut too short, however. In April 2010, life drastically changed when our Dad passed suddenly. Mom and Dad were married for 43 years. Our mom was lost, doing the best she could to believe that things happen for a reason. Time passed, difficult time for our family but we continued making memories. In November 2011, we took our Mom to visit Mili’s family in Peru. What a great trip…. unfortunately, the last we would all take together. The flu and shingles affected Mom upon return, and health struggles continued. Flying up north for Easter with our family, we noticed that Moms skin had a severe yellow tone. We spent a nice week, as always, with our family but upon return scheduled an immediate appointment with Mom’s doctor. Thinking maybe something with her liver, we awaited results. The doctor kept doing more tests with worrisome behavior. Within weeks of daily doctor appointments, and just one year after our dad passed away, we learned the worst news ever. Lee and I sat with mom and our Ongologist as we were informed that Mom was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. The doctor explained potential scenarios, and immediately an intense chemotherapy plan was begun. Devastated isn’t a bad enough word to describe this experience. Mom fought hard through many cycles of aggressive chemo and radiation. It was helping to keep the mass stable for some time. At this point, we found that we may be candidates for the Whipple procedure, a really invasive surgery, however, would hopefully give us a few more years with mom. After numerous trips to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, we were ready to put our fists up high and fight this thing. But disappointment came again when days before the scheduled surgery, we learned that we weren’t candidates for this procedure; the cancer had metastasized. Awful news – it was our only hope to beat this incredibly aggressive cancer.
Christmas 2011 came and we were determined to make this a memory we would never forget. Lee, Mili, Loren and Devyn told Mom they were coming down from New Jersey to spend Christmas with us. Mom was sad that we couldn’t be with Aunt Diane and Uncle Ralph (Mom’s brother) and the DelCervo cousins also, but we couldn’t travel. To spend this holiday together was not even a question. Christmas Eve, Mom’s gift arrived via Skype. Frankie, living in Florida at the time, rang the doorbell arriving with flowers, and the rest of the DelCervo clan appeared on the computer screen holding a sign that said “See you tomorrow, Merry Christmas.” With lots of laughter and tears, our last Christmas with Mom happened (and by the way mom cooked like crazy). I shake my head as I write this, because it is truly as terrible as it sounds. What we would do for one more day, holiday, anything…..bring back Christmas of 2009...with our Mom and Dad with us watching Loren and Devyn open presents from Santa! 2012 was outrageously tough....Mom fought hard, the intensity of chemo decreased, and the pain drastically increased. For her to not get out of bed, we knew it was getting worse. Lee and I took her to the hospital on Friday March 10th to have a few procedures to help with the pain. The cancer had spread to her lungs and they were filling with fluid – we planned to drain to alleviate some of the pressure and shortness of breath… She walked into the hospital as we thought we were there for these procedures then she could go home. Our lives were about to change forever - The fight couldn’t be fought anymore….Monday morning came and we were told the inevitable. Get the family together; Mom was not going to be with us for much longer.The cancer had metastasized and her body was terribly weakened. Lee and I stayed awake for 2 nights in the hospital staring at her, holding her. She asked to see her family, and they were already on their way. Wednesday, March 15th, we took Mom home to lay comfortably in the house that my mom and dad made into such a beautiful home. Mom’s brother Uncle Ralph and family arrived, as did Mili and the girls, Auntie Patricia and Rosanne. Friends gathered as Hospice of the Comforter comforted Mom and us. The Priest came and prayed with our whole family asking God to take mom safely home with Him. Heart wrenching, we stood together knowing that she would soon be rid of this terrible pain. We talked to her, knowing that she heard every word we said. Friends and Family alike had personal moments with her to tell her how they felt and say their goodbyes. We know that many told mom that they would see that my brother and I are taken care of, and we know our mom is watching down to ensure this as well.
On Thursday, March 16th, Mom took her last breath with every one of us by her side. Surely the most difficult moment of my life and the lives of my brother and our family. My mom and dad have both left our world and are our Angels looking down upon us. We only hope that they are dancing up there celebrating the years that they had together and with us. We thank our parents for teaching us to work hard, enjoy life and love unconditionally. Cherish your memories friends, and always make time for those that you love and that love you…..and don’t forget to let them know….
An estimated 56,770 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year and approximately 45,750 will die from the disease. It is now the THIRD leading cause of cancer death, with a five-year survival rate of just 9%. Pancreatic cancer has the lowest relative survival rate of any major cancer.
Pancreatic cancer is the most under-funded, under-recognized and least-studied of all major cancer killers.
Around the nation, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network hosts one if it's signature events, PurpleStride. It is a 5K in your community, and all registration fees and additional monies donated, go to help patients & families, education and research funds.
Along with our event, whether it's volunteering or attending, there are many things you can do to help fight this terrible disease. Learn more.