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Jeanenne’s Legacy

Carolyn Detering spoke to the Nashville City Council ahead of this year’s “Walk With The Dogs”, to be held June 2, and told them about how the loss of her sister, Jeanenne Thompson, started the annual event.

Walk With The Dogs Does Good In Memory Of Those Lost To Pancreatic Cancer

By Alex Haglund

At the meeting of the Nashville City Council held on February 15, Carolyn Detering mentioned that the day of the meeting marked a sad anniversary for her and her family.
“Today is 13 years ago when my sister died of pancreatic cancer,” Detering told the board. That sister was Jeanenne Thompson, and if her name sounds familiar, it’s part of the title of a local event,
The Jeanenne Thompson Walk With The Dogs, which Detering, along with her husband, Charlie, was at the meeting to plan for.
After Jeanenne’s death, Detering said that her niece and Jeanenne’s daughter, Christi Thompson Merritt, came up with the idea for the walk and asked her and Charlie for help.
“It was really weird,” said Merritt about their first walk, held in 2006. “It was June and we met under the water tower with 99 people.”
“Of course, about 50 of them were relatives,” joked Detering.
“That first year, it was really a lot about Mom,” said Merritt, “and it’s just blown up from there.”
“It was such an unknown and undiscussed form of cancer back then,” Merritt said, saying that what made it so hard to detect, so hard to treat, and so deadly, also helped to bring those together who had unfortunately been touched by it.
Simply put, pancreatic cancer’s “mortality rate is far out of proportion to its frequency of occurrence,” as stated on the Walk With the Dogs website.
There are a number of different reasons for this high mortality rate, but the main one is that the pancreas is tucked behind other organs and is very hard to get a clear image of. By the time doctors have eliminated the other things pancreatic cancer could be, the cancer itself may have had a chance to spread and metastasize and by that point, it’s often too late.
“When we started this,” Detering said, “the survival rate was only around 3%.”
Some of those that came to that first walk started to talk about their experiences, the people they had lost and even if it’s a horrible loss, those involved in this effort found some common ground.
Soon as the group of supporters and those touched by this disease grew, “next came the tribute board,” said Merritt. After years of having this event, “you can see how full it is, but it’s not a club that you want to be a part of.”
So while that sense of family and camaraderie are important, there is a larger purpose at work here on the part of Detering, Merritt, and other supporters of the Walk with the Dogs – is to make a difference – and so far, they have.
Pancreatic cancer is still a tough row to hoe. It’s not pleasant, and it is deadly, still. But not as deadly. Right now, the survival rate five years after diagnosis is 9%.
Low, yes. But three times what it was just a short while ago.
The goal, on behalf of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, which The Walk helps to support, is a 12% survival rate by 2020, “And it looks like they’re on track to get it,” said Detering.
So while the fellowship is important, it’s getting survivors and those who have lost loved ones through this, the goal those who take part in this is to do some work at raising that number, at saving lives, and at raising awareness. And of course, doing all of that takes money.
All told, “$370,000 is the grand total as of last year,” raised by the Walk with the Dogs, said Detering, “which is excellent for a grassroots effort.”
“Fundraising is critical in the pancreatic cancer world,” Merritt said. “What we have been able to do in this small town, with our small army has been amazing.”
As an example, Merritt said that the 2017 event in Nashville brought in $48,000. At the same time, Merritt said that she believes the 2017 PurpleStride event held in Nashville, Tenn., brought in under $100,000.
The city council approved the date and time for the 2018 event – at the pavilion across the creek at Nashville Memorial Park, starting out at 8 a.m., on Saturday, June 2. The route will be the same as last year.
“It’s a great event,” said Nashville Mayor Erik Rolf. “It raises a lot of money, and a lot of awareness.”
“Every year, we have about 400 people,” said Detering, “it depends on ballgames and weddings that weekend.”
Registration for the 2018 Walk with the Dogs opened up on Monday, March 19. Those interested in participating, either in person, or from where ever they are at as a “web walker”, can sign up now by heading to
Registering for the event now costs just $20, while registering after May 11 will be $25. Online registration ends on May 31, but there will be registration open on the day of the event as well.
There are also a number of options available for those seeking to take part in the event as a sponsor. Those interested should also head to the website.
“We are making great strides,” said Merritt, “but unfortunately, around our world and with pancreatic cancer, it takes money.”
To make strides along with them (and along with some dogs as well) head to the website and get registered, and don’t forget to head out early in the morning on June 2.

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