Whether they came by car, plane, bus and trains, or attended virtually, people came in droves – all for the same reason – to raise awareness about the growing threat of Esophageal Cancer (EC) at the 4th Annual 5K Esophageal Cancer Run/Walk event that took place on Saturday, September 17th in Marine Park.
The three-mile journey around the park’s oval was literally on track to raise a record amount of almost $12,000 as hundreds of people came to support the Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation and their event coordinator, Brooklyn Chapter Representative Dara Mormile, in her quest to raise awareness and get more people to advocate for mandated screenings and better detection tools for EC in memory of her father, a native of Canarsie, who, after a two-year battle, succumbed to the deadly disease in 2010 at age 56.
Opera singer Amy Suznovich, who lost her father to EC, sang the National Anthem at the opening ceremony. The women’s winner was Una Broderick who came in first at 21:00 and the men’s winner was John Pinna who came in third at 22:12.
“In 2022, there will be an estimated 20,640 new cases of Esophageal Cancer and an estimated over 16,000 deaths,” Mormile said, prior to having return speakers Lauren Ashley and Wendy Cassel tell their remarkably similar stories. It was also the first time that Mormile shared her father’s story in detail and how that resulted in bringing so many other families like hers together that day.
With many, the symptoms are the same and often ignored or misdiagnosed. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which has persistent heartburn, chronic cough or hoarseness, as well as acid reflux, indigestion and difficulty swallowing, are not always recognized as markers of EC.
By the time it is taken seriously and medical help is sought, it is often too late. According to the National Cancer Institute, the overall five-year survival rate for esophageal cancer is about 20%, but survival rates can range from 5% to 47%.
‘When we all tell our stories, it’s very sad that most of them are the same in nature – which connects us all,” Mormile told the Canarsie Courier.
Since there are no screenings for this cancer unlike other types of cancer, Mormile said that there needs to be a change in the medical world on how EC is addressed. Those suffering symptoms at the onset need to self-advocate by insisting on an endoscopy from their doctor as early as possible. Jen Shaunty from Houston, Texas agreed. Her brother had EC symptoms for a few months and passed away on August 15th.
Queens resident Lina DiVanna’s husband, John, started getting symptoms four years ago, was diagnosed with EC in February 2018 and died on March 11th at age 57. Her group of 90 people was the largest of the 14 teams at the event.
Patty Norton from Rockville Center lost her elderly father to EC in June after suffering symptoms since Thanksgiving. Doctors couldn’t diagnose it until a PET scan revealed the cancerous tumor.
Many from our region and other states like Florida, Connecticut, New Jersey and beyond expressed how they were seeking a way to raise awareness or donate in memory of their loved ones but didn’t have anything in their community so they searched the internet and found Mormile’s event.
Mormile has gained support from members of the NYS Senate, Assembly and Council. State Senator Roxanne Persaud encouraged the crowd to lobby the State legislature in Albany for mandated screenings for EC.
Visit Salgi.org and salgi.org/research/ to learn more about the foundation and research to develop a breathalyzer tool to detect cancer cells in the esophagus during the early stages of EC. Visit Mormile’s EC Awareness YouTube survivor series channel at youtube.com/user/diggydiggydara or email her at DaraMormile@hotmail.com. Photos of the event will be posted on the racing organization’s Facebook page @elitefeats.