VILLA PARK – In September 2011, shortly before her father, Jack, died of prostate cancer, Mary Kanak of Villa Park went with her cousin to participate in the SEA Blue Prostate Cancer Walk and Run at Lincoln Park in Chicago.
Kanak remembers meeting representatives there from The Wellness Place, a suburban resource center for cancer patients, and Us TOO, a prostate cancer education and advocacy group. She talked about her father’s condition, about his treatment and about his medications. In return she got hope.
“All [they] did was show me love and hope,” Kanak said. “That’s all you want when a loved one is ill.”
Jack Slivka died in November 2011, and since then, his daughter has been motivated to build awareness for prostate cancer.
On Sept. 15, Kanak will walk with her husband and other family members in the SEA Blue Prostate Cancer Walk and Run in Chicago. Last year, her team walked in memory of her father; this year they’ll walk in celebration of his life, she said.
“I think he would be more on the side of ‘Celebrate me,’” she said.
It’s not just her father who suffered from the disease. Kanak’s paternal grandfather died from prostate cancer and her brother recently underwent treatment. She’s had several other male family members who had prostate cancer.
As a result, she’s active in building awareness for this type of cancer. She volunteers at Us TOO where she helps prepare mailings, newsletters and other informational materials about prostate cancer.
“I just think it’s important to grow awareness for prostate cancer,” she said. “It’s so easy to detect. If you’re aware that it is in your family, you need to check.”
She wants more people to know about checking for cancer, she wants more people to know about the resources available and she wants to inspire hope in the families of prostate cancer patients.
Her team for this year’s walk and run is called Jack’s Ripples, named after “Ripples of Connections,” the memoir that Kanak wrote about her childhood after first learning her father was sick.
Participating in the walk and run isn’t about raising the most money or having the largest team, for her it’s about remembering her father and supporting others affected by prostate cancer, she said.
“I’ve had a really blessed life,” she said. “I was just raised to give back.”