Survivor plans 24-hour walk for Norwin relay

Philip Kanarkowski is a prostate cancer survivor who will be walking 24 hours straight during the Norwin Relay for Life in hopes of inspiring others to give to the American Cancer Society.
Philip Kanarkowski is a prostate cancer survivor who will be walking 24 hours straight during the Norwin Relay for Life in hopes of inspiring others to give to the American Cancer Society.
Photo by Lillian DeDomenic | For The Norwin Star
| Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

A cancer survivor from Irwin plans to walk for 24 hours straight during this weekend's Norwin Relay for Life at Norwin High School.

Prostate cancer survivor Philip Kanarkowski, 42, hopes his daylong walk inspires others to reach out to help people battling cancer.

“I knew prostate cancer wouldn't kill me, but it really made me think more about life and appreciate things,” Kanarkowski said. “I was lucky I had excellent healthcare, but there are a lot of people who don't, and don't get treatment because they can't afford it.

“There are so many people less fortunate, and I never want to see somebody lose their battle to cancer because they can't afford care.”

Doctors diagnosed Kanarkowski with prostate cancer in 2011. He said he expected the diagnosis because his father, also named Philip Kanarkowski, had the disease.

“I hoped for the best, but planned on having it,” Kanarkowski said. “When they told me I had it, I really didn't know what to think.”

According to the American Cancer Society's website, doctors estimate 238,590 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed this year, with about 29,720 deaths related to the disease.

Although one in six men will face a prostate cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, only one in 36 die from the disease, which is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths for men, behind lung cancer, according to the website.

This November will mark two years since doctors surgically removed Kanarkowski's cancer at Excela Health's Latrobe Hospital. Every six months, he goes in for checkups and tests, and his results come back without any signs of the cancer returning, he said.

Now, Kanarkowski said he hopes to inspire and help others with his walk this weekend.

“If I can go forth and put my body through this, maybe they'll look deep into themselves and donate more to help other people,” he said. “Being at Relay, and being around others who have gone through this, gives me a lot of motivation to do this.”

Kanarkowski said he told Penny Whalen, mission chairwoman for the Relay for Life of Norwin, about his goal to walk around the Norwin High School track for the duration of the entire event.

She said Kanarkowski's goal is admirable, and reinforces the meaning of the event.

“The whole purpose of the 24-hour Relay has to do with the idea that cancer never sleeps,” she said. “Seeing anybody commit an entire day to represent that message, especially a survivor, is very inspirational.”

This year, Relay for Life of Norwin organizers hope to raise $90,000 to benefit the American Cancer Society, Whalen said. Last year, the event brought in $82,315.

She is confident the event can meet that goal.

“I think it's always great to reach for the stars, and hopefully when we do, we'll reach our goal,” Whalen said. “I don't see any reason why we won't, especially since there is so much excitement.

“Excitement is contagious, and wherever we end up with our fundraising efforts, we'll be a step closer to helping find a cure and offering services to those battling cancer.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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