Rusty Stafford Foundation

  • Wage Hope at PurpleStride. The walk to end pancreatic cancer.

    Wage Hope at PurpleStride. The walk to end pancreatic cancer.

Rusty Stafford Foundation


Raised: $358

Goal: $5,000

Welcome to our team fundraising page!

Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all major cancers, at just 9%.

Our team, the Rusty Stafford Foundation, has stepped up to Wage Hope at PurpleStride (Louisville, KY), the walk to end pancreatic cancer, in memory of Rusty Stafford. Will you help us rewrite the future of this disease by making a donation today?

Every dollar that you donate ensures that the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network can continue working to create better outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients and their families. By donating to our team, you are supporting vital efforts to double pancreatic cancer survival by 2020. 

Purple ribbons aren’t enough. Please join us in the fight today. 

Rusty Stafford was a loving husband, a devoted dog dad, a giving friend, and a beloved son. He shared a mutual admiration for his parents. He grew up in Eastern Kentucky in a small town called Sidney. Rusty’s best life was spent riding motorcycles, admiring cars, being a football fan, and fishing with his buddies. 

On November 16, 2017, our lives changed forever. Rusty had been experiencing pain in his back. An endoscopy showed a growing tumor in his duodenum that protruded into his pancreas classifying him with Stage III Pancreatic Cancer. We did not comprehend what this meant at the time but we knew the journey ahead would be tough.

Rusty immediately began an aggressive chemotherapy regimen. We needed the tumor to shrink to qualify him for the Whipple procedure, a difficult and risky operation. After a few chemotherapy treatments, the tumor reduced in size. We celebrated.

The eight total chemotherapy treatments had taken a toll on Rusty’s body. He had lost 20lbs but was still strong enough and stubborn enough to do most things himself. The Whipple procedure removed Rusty’s duodenum, part of his stomach, part of his pancreas, gallbladder, and 33 lymph nodes. After the surgery, we were told all the cancer that could be seen was removed. We celebrated again.

It seemed like our future got a little brighter during this time. As far as we knew, the doctor had removed all of the cancer. We had hope and truly believed he was going to be a cancer survivor. His recovery from surgery, however, was anything but easy. Rusty had a totally reconstructed digestive system and a large incision along his stomach. After a week long stay in the hospital, he was released to go home and ordered to slowly allow his digestive system to acclimate to its new surroundings. We were told his recovery plan would take six weeks and then he should be able to eat a complete meal again. This deadline came and went. Rusty still did not have an appetite and experienced nausea every time he attempted to eat. He tried to eat anything and everything with little success. He was losing weight quickly and his energy was at an all time low. Surprisingly, at 130lbs, Rusty started to turn a corner. For a week it seemed like things were heading in the right direction. Finally, he was eating meals, making jokes, and seemed like himself again. Cautiously, we celebrated again.

Ten weeks post surgery, Rusty hit a wall. He began having unbearable pain and lost his appetite again. We were told Rusty’s cancer had returned. Not only had it returned, it was extremely aggressive too. Microscopic cancerous cells cannot be seen on scans and therefore had spread through his lymph nodes to his chest, liver, and pelvic area. This was a huge blow for us but we were still hopeful for our last option. Rusty’s tumor markers showed he would be a candidate for Keytruda, an innovative, targeted therapy that was the future of curing cancer. Thankfully, this form of treatment was supposed to be much easier on his body. However, after his first treatment his pain began to worsen. The pain began in his stomach and traveled up his back. It was unbearable pain. Even the strongest narcotics did not help ease his discomfort because they were not being absorbed in his stomach. The pain continued.

After three treatments of Keytruda, a scan showed the cancer was everywhere. We were absolutely heartbroken. The doctor’s new treatment plan was to keep Rusty comfortable. His cancer was now considered terminal. He was given approximately 3 months.

There are no words to express what we were feeling during this time and there was no time to dwell. Rusty wanted to see the beach one last time. Our families dropped everything and rented a beach house in Destin, Florida. He spent the last week of his life surrounded by his parents, wife, and other immediate family members. Rusty took his last breath on September 11, 2018. He was 41 years old.

Anyone who knew Rusty, loved him. Many lost a piece of themselves that day.

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About PanCAN's PurpleStride

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s (PanCAN) PurpleStride is a year-round national movement that funds life-changing programs and services to accelerate progress for pancreatic cancer patients.

On one powerful day through nearly 60 PurpleStride events nationwide, pancreatic cancer survivors, families, caregivers, researchers and supporters will join together 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.