The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 15, 2013

Sons compete in triathlon in their father's memory

— The Greenbrier Group to fight Pancreatic Cancer and WVSOM Wilderness Medicine Club held the first Appalachian Du/Triathlon to fight cancer Sept. 8 at Lake Sherwood in the Monogahela National Forest, Greenbrier County.

The event was sponsored by Greenbrier Medical Arts Pharmacy and Robert C. Byrd Clinic to raise funds for the detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer and a fun way for people to become active and to support a healthier lifestyle in the fight against cancer.

Marlene Blankenship lost her husband Harold Blankenship to pancreatic cancer Sept. 7, 2012. Her three sons, David Blankenship of Matthews, N.C.; Mark Rogan Blankenship of Waxhaw, N.C.; and Joey Blankenship of Powder Springs, Ga., participated in the event in honor of their father.

This was their first sanctioned triathlon event, which includes a 740-meter swim, followed by a 13.5-mile bike ride and a 5K run.

Because the course is considered challenging enough for a seasoned triathlete, but is also acceptable for first-timers, they said they didn’t know if they could finish the event. But they were willing to try.

Marlene said she was hoping and praying they would be successful in crossing the finish line — and they did with tears of joy from their mother, wives and children.

“They did a great job. My youngest son, Joey, finished 18th out of 50-plus entries,“ the proud mother said.

Marlene said when you get the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, as they did at the Pittsburgh University Medical Center, it’s never a good thing.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the top five cancers, but it receives very little federal research funding — “less than prostrate or breast or colon cancer,” explains Marlene. “If things don’t change, pancreatic cancer will actually surpass lung cancer in number of people killed each year. It is one of the less curable cancers and usually by the time it’s diagnosed, it’s too late.”

All proceeds from the du/triathlon will be donated to the Lustgarten Foundation ( Cablevision System Corp. and the Lustgarten Foundation have launched curePC, a public awareness campaign in support of the fight against pancreatic cancer.