Jennifer Holtz

My Story

As many of you may know, this is a really rough time of year for me.  I am always thinking back to what happened to my dad to take him away from us, coming up on four years.

Here is part of my story and why I am asking you to join or donate to my PurpleStride 2022 team, which raises money for pancreatic cancer. This is the first time in what is almost three years that I have decided to start writing down what happened to our family.

In early August 2018, my extended family had its annual reunion.  My parents were the host that year; it rotates from family to family each year. My parents chose a rental property on a lake in Georgia. I looked forward to this every year – it was always a fun time with all the cousins and my dad would usually rent some kind of boat for all 20+ of us.  This year was different though.

Several weeks prior, my dad’s heart medication was recalled for causing cancer.  He found out on the news. Neither his doctor nor pharmacy told him.  After talking to his doctor, he was put on a different medication, and he started showing some side effects right before the family reunion.

A week or two before the reunion, my parents went to Atlanta to help my brother and his family move into a new house. My dad ended up taking some naps and resting because his back was hurting from the stairs, and he was not feeling well.

Fast forward to the family reunion, and he was showing more strange symptoms- confusion and dizziness.   After taking a hot shower, thinking he would feel better, we thought he was having a stroke but learned instead that his blood pressure was quickly dropping. After landing in the ER, we were told he was having a reaction to the new blood pressure medication. The ER doctor also told us he was diabetic, and his blood sugar was over 400. 

He had a physical in June.  Why wouldn’t the doctor have told him then?

He started feeling much better after stopping the heart medication and taking some insulin.  He rented the boat, and we all went out for a nice day on the lake. 

When it was time to leave the reunion, I offered to drive mom and dad back to Florida given the ordeal.  After weeks and weeks of tests at a new doctor’s office given some other odd lab results, my mom ended up getting dad an appointment with her endocrinologist at Baptist South in Jacksonville in September.  Her doctor ran a ton of tests including an MRI. They were just getting back to Daytona when the doctor called and said they saw a blockage on the scans, and he needed to get to an ER right away.

After hearing that my mom was not even going home but rather straight to Halifax, I quickly booked a flight home to Fl from DC.

We were having terrible storms here in the DC area.  The flight I booked from DCA to DAB do was getting delayed and delayed and I was going to miss my connection.  I ended up being able to get booked on a flight out of Dulles to Orlando and needing to take an uber home, not getting in until well after 2am.

Back in Daytona, Halifax refused to look at the Jacksonville scans and instead insisted on running their own scans, which they said revealed nothing.  Instead, they told him he was nearing kidney failure.

Against doctors orders, we got him out of Halifax and drove him to the ER at Baptist South back in Jacksonville.  Little did I know what we would learn.  The ER doc walked in and blurted out, so we think you have pancreatic cancer.  That is why you are here. 

Little did I know that when my parents left the house for those diagnostic tests in Jacksonville, that would be the last time my dad ever would go home.  From there, he would go on to spend two weeks in the hospital for more tests, biopsies, and ultimately an infection.  Two weeks later, we drove him to Emory in Atlanta for treatment, and several months later, he died.

Our experience was absolutely awful, and no family should ever have to go through a drug recall and a reaction to a new medication to learn they are all of a sudden diabetic with elevated liver enzymes which was the starting point for a stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

I created this team in loving memory of my dad and everyone else we have lost to this disease, most recently including our dear family friend Cheryl Pranikoff.

Please join me in raising money for research, for advocacy, for patient services, and for hopefully putting an end to such a horrific disease.

Click JOIN TEAM to walk with me in Washington DC on Pennsylvania Avenue and help me raise money to fight pancreatic cancer through your own networks! Otherwise, please click DONATE to help change the trajectory of this disease for all those fighting and yet to be diagnosed.  

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About PanCAN PurpleStride

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

On One Big Day, through 60 PurpleStride events taking place 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 the number one way PanCAN raises money to fight pancreatic cancer on all fronts — through research, clinical initiatives, patient services, advocacy and nationwide volunteer support. Learn more.