Steve Whitman, a Wilmot Cancer Center board member, will serve as honorary chairman of the Pancreatic Cancer Association of Western New York’s seventh annual Step It Up! Cure Pancreatic Cancer 5K Walk from noon to 4 p.m. Nov. 19 in Rochester Institute of Technology’s Gordon Field House, 1 Lomb Memorial Drive.

The event’s purpose is to create awareness for the disease and generate financial support for local research as well as programs and services for patients and their families.

Whitman was diagnosed in 2010 with pancreatic cancer after experiencing acute abdominal pain. A CT scan determined that a grapefruit-sized tumor was on his pancreas at the very advanced stage. The Whipple surgery was the only treatment option. Only 20 percent of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are eligible for the surgery, which gives the best chance for a cure.

“I just celebrated what I call my sixth bonus birthday as a pancreatic cancer survivor,” Whitman said. “I have learned to live with cancer and have not let it stop me from things I enjoy. I am grateful for the excellent care I receive from an extremely high caliber team of physicians. I’m honored to serve as honorary chairman of the Step It Up! Cure Pancreatic Cancer Walk and be able to share my story so that it can bring hope to others.”

PCAWY is a community grassroots organizations of volunteers that came together in 2009 to effect change after their lives were affected by pancreatic cancer. The agency’s annual 5K is an indoor event geared toward the whole family, including children’s activities such as face painting, balloon animals, a bounce house and games.

“This is a horrific disease that takes thousands of our loved ones annually, because without early detection methods it is found in its late stages when it may have already metastasized to other organs,” said Mary Ellen Smith, PCAWY executive director. “Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., yet it is the least federally funded, leaving researchers to rely on community organizations like ours for funding dollars. That’s why our walk is so important. The dollars raised at this event are dedicated to funding local research. Earlier this year, PCA committed to donating $500,000 to Wilmot Cancer Institute over five years to fund a comprehensive approach to fighting pancreatic cancer with a strong emphasis on research.”

Advanced registration is encouraged. For more information, visit pcawny.org.