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Cancer network benefits from student's efforts

| Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Elizabeth Forward sixth-grader Alexis Korenosky presents a check to Don Furko of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network while gifted support teacher Lois Leggett, left, and Janice Korenosky look on.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Elizabeth Forward sixth-grader Alexis Korenosky presents a check to Don Furko of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network while gifted support teacher Lois Leggett, left, and Janice Korenosky look on. Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News

When Alexis Korenosky had to do a project for her Gifted And Talented Education class to raise money for an organization, the decision was easy.

“I was thinking of my Pap and I wanted to do something to make a difference and that was important to me,” the Elizabeth Forward sixth-grader said. “My Pap died of pancreatic cancer so I wanted to raise money for that.”

She first thought of having a walk-a-thon but her gym teacher suggested a dance-a-thon, which is what she did but with a twist — it was a Wii dance-a-thon.

The Nov. 12 “Dance for Pancreatic Cancer” also had a Chinese auction and bake sale.

“It was pretty hard to put together,” she said of the project. “I was worried at first that no one would come, but we had so many people. I couldn't believe it.”

Her hard work paid off and last week she presented a check for $609 to Don Furko, affiliate coordinator for the Pittsburgh Affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Middle school principal Mike Routh was impressed with Alexis' project.

“I really never saw kids have such a great time. Some kids you wouldn't think would take part in something like that did. It was an awesome event and we need to do more things like that,” Routh said.

Gifted support teacher Lois Leggett said she encourages the students to devise a business plan for a project. “This really meant something to Alexis and it showed in what all she did.”

Janice Korenosky said she is proud of her daughter.

“She was very close to my dad, who died of pancreatic cancer three years ago in February,” Janice Korenosky said. “This was very important to her and she really did a lot of work. I think this really helped our family because we were able to do something to raise more awareness of pancreatic cancer.”

Janice Korenosky said her father was never sick. He was diagnosed with diabetes first then he became jaundiced and that's when doctors discovered the cancer. “He lived for a year after he was diagnosed. He was 71 when he died,” she said.

Furko said his father also died of pancreatic cancer — 55 days after being diagnosed and not long after being diagnosed with diabetes.

“My dad was always about 205 pounds but he experienced severe weight loss that could not be explained. The cancer wasn't diagnosed until he experienced pain,” Furko said.

Citing how deadly pancreatic cancer is, Furko said the survival rate five years after diagnosis is 6 percent, the lowest of all cancers. The first-year survival rate is 25 percent.

This year, he said, 44,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and 37,000 will die.

“The number that will die of this cancer this year is about how many people will fit in PNC Park,” Furko said. “We hope to double the survival rate by 2020.”

Furko said there appears to be a link between being diagnosed with diabetes after age 40 and pancreatic cancer. “We don't know what comes first, the cancer or diabetes. My dad's pancreas was malfunctioning and that's how his diabetes was diagnosed. Better testing is needed for pancreatic cancer. Of the 10 major cancers, this is the only one with no preemptive testing.”

Some symptoms of this cancer include back pain, abdominal pain, and reflux. While those are things the person can experience, there are some signs others may see that could indicate a problem such as jaundice or drastic, unexplained weight loss.”

Just as Alexis did something in her Pap's memory, Furko promised in his father's eulogy that he would do something to spread the word about pancreatic cancer. That something occurred in November 2011 when he was in Harrisburg and saw a large group with purple T-shirts — the color symbolic for this type of cancer. That's when he got involved with the Pittsburgh group.

Looking ahead, Alexis said she may do more to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer. “I might do something different next year to raise money for this because it's a good cause.”

The Pittsburgh Affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network meets monthly at Gilda's Club. The next meeting is Feb. 14 at 6:30 p.m. Information is available online at

Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1916, or

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