Julie Copaken

Julie Copaken


Raised: $26,068

Goal: $25,000

20 years of raising money & awareness... 15 years since he's been gone...

Since our first PurpleStride event in 2011, I have personally raised over $250,000, and my twin sister Laura and I have collectively raised over  $350,000, for the fight against pancreatic cancer.  And, we're not stopping now...  I wanted to write something new and creative, but honestly, I can't come up with anything nearly as powerful as the poem I wrote in 2013, marking the 5 year anniversary of my dad's passing.  So, I'm re-posting that here as well as three photos -- of a rainbow, a sunrise, and a sunset.  One thing is for sure...while time keeps passing, I continue to feel my dad's presence so powerfully in certain moments -- usually when the world presents itself in the beautiful way it can.  He would have loved the colors and the contrast and the texture and all the nuances... I see these things and I know he's there, enjoying the view by my side...  


“Have you ever?” By Julie Copaken, Aug 2013

Have you ever received that phone call that punched you in the gut?
“They say I have two to six months to live,” he said.
I curled up in the little nook behind my desk, and I cried and I cried and I cried.

Have you ever heard your dad, the optimist of all optimists, lose just a little bit of his will to live?
“I’m in too much pain, and just want this to be over,” he said.
I tried to be strong, but I curled up in my bed, where I cried and I cried and I cried.

Have you ever realized that you would never have that father-daughter dance?
There are no words to be said.
I sit here as I write, and I cry and I cry and I cry, just like I did almost exactly 5 years ago today.

Have you ever received that other phone call that instilled the fear of god?
“He’s got days if not hours, you better hurry,” she said.
I sped down 95 at more than 95 mph, and I cried and I cried and I cried.

Have you ever begged someone who just hours earlier you willed to be at peace,
literally begged him to hold on just ten more minutes until your mom and sister could get there?
“Please god,” you whispered.
As you rocked back and forth telling your dad you loved him,
as you cried and you cried and you cried?

Have you ever witnessed a miracle as he held on?

Have you ever known it was a sign, with such certainty,
when that light reflected off the adjacent building’s wall,
in that strange way light sometimes reflects?
“Goodbye,” he was saying… “I love you.”
And you cried and you cried and cried

As you realized he’d always be there
in every unique ray of light, and in every rainbow
in your heart, and in your soul

If so, then maybe, just maybe, you understand


And for those of you who want a bit more history...

I have been involved in the fight against cancer for 20 years now and altogether, with the help of people like you, we have raised over $775,000 for the fight against cancer.  

It all started in 2005 when I was an associate brand manager on the MOTRIN® IB Brand, which was a national sponsor of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day. They asked me to speak at one of their events, and I didn’t want to do so unless I was out there raising money and walking alongside the people to whom I’d be speaking.  And once I started fundraising, I learned just how many people have been impacted by breast cancer – my friend’s mom, another friend’s aunt, my colleague, and more – and it just became important to me that I continue to do my part.  Since that time, I lost my close friend Mary to breast cancer (2009), Vicki lost her sister and Libby lost her mom. And I met Maryanne - an amazing friend and breast cancer survivor.  It’s a lot!  So, each year since 2005 I've walked and raised money.  In fact, I've now participated in sixteen 60-mile Susan G. Komen 3-Day events, and 1 virtual 3-Day event, raising over $340,000 for the fight against breast cancer, by asking people like you to make a small donation to support me – it’s amazing how it adds up. There has been so much progress already made in the fight, but still over 40,000 people die each year from breast cancer.  So, I'm committed to continuing those efforts.

But then, on August 8, 2008, my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died exactly 4 months later on December 8, 2008. There are no words to really describe the impact this has had on our family. The year my dad was diagnosed, I walked in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day event wearing a t-shirt that read “4th year walking for boobs everywhere, 1st year walking for one particular pancreas.” In 2011, I was introduced to a great organization, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN). I toured the lab of one of the grantees and learned directly from him how he is making progress in that very lab towards finding better ways to fight the disease. I now raise money for PanCAN as well by participating in their Purple Stride 5k events, and even running a marathon one year on their Team Hope. To date I’ve raised over $250,000 for PanCAN. My twin sister has raised another $95,000. It brought tears of joy to my eyes to see the new American Cancer Society statistics that show 5-year survival rates for pancreatic cancer have improved from 6% in 2011 to 13% today!  While not where we want to be, there's been so much progress, and somehow I feel I've played a small role!  So, yes, I'm committed to continuing those efforts...

But that's not it.  Unfortunately, each year there are more reasons to want to kick cancer's a$$. My best friends' mom to whom I was close lost a 4-week battle with plasma cell leukemia in 2017, I lost my uncle to a malignant brain tumor in 2018, and an 18-year-old close family friend lost her 8-year battle with Ewing's Sarcoma in Dec 2019.  On an unrelated note, in 2017, I sat on the sideline cheering my sister on during her 3rd Boston Marathon thinking how fun it would be able to run, but knowing I'm too slow to qualify. So, how could I combine this selfish desire to run the Boston Marathon, with my continued and growing fury at this thing called Cancer? Well, I went out and secured myself a fundraising spot with Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Dana Farber funds all sorts of cancer research, including leukemia, Ewings, lung, breast, and pancreatic cancer.  That's another organization I can get behind – a perfect match for me to combine my passion for running with my passion for raising funds and awareness to help fight cancer!  So, that's what I did.  While I've taken a break from marathon running for now, from 2018-2020 I raised another $45,000 for Dana Farber, all with help from people like you!

If you've made it this far, I appreciate you!  Thank you for considering supporting (or renewing your support of) these efforts!!!  Achieving $1,000,000 lifetime dollars raised for the fight against cancer is the next goal, but more important is the ultimately goal and finish line: a world without cancer.  Will you join me in this fight?

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About PanCAN PurpleStride

Local action. Nationwide impact. This is PanCAN PurpleStride, the ultimate walk to end pancreatic cancer.

On Saturday, April 27, 2024, at nearly 60 events across the country, pancreatic cancer survivors, families, caregivers, researchers and supporters will join together and walk to honor everyone affected by the disease.

PurpleStride is PanCAN's signature community celebration, raising money to fight pancreatic cancer on all fronts — through research, clinical initiatives, patient services, advocacy and nationwide volunteer support. Learn more.