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'Not old enough': Local woman spreading awareness about pancreatic cancer after father's death

Nov. 18 is World Pancreatic Cancer Day
Posted at 9:11 PM, Nov 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-19 14:06:10-05

SOLON, Ohio — Marvin Warshay loved history, gardening and reading the news.

He worked for 36 years as a chemical engineer at NASA’s Lewis Research Center.

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PHOTO: Marvin Warshay, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015 and died in 2017. His daughter, Alisa, said he loved to garden.

In 2015, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and went through chemotherapy and radiation. He was also supposed to have a major surgery to resect his tumor, but his daughter Alisa Warshay said when doctors opened him up, they couldn’t complete the operation because the cancer had spread.

“I don't want him to be defined by the way he passed away,” Warshay said. “That was just two years of his life, but he lived 81 years before he got pancreatic cancer.”

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PHOTO: Alisa and Marvin Warshay one Father's Day at a Cleveland baseball game.

Marvin died in 2017 at 83 years old.

“I always like to say, ‘Not old enough,’” his daughter, who lives in Solon, said.

Warshay said her father was kind and intelligent.

“He taught us so many wonderful life lessons. He taught us to accept everybody, no matter what they look like, where they're from, what their life is like,” she said.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in the year 2021, more than 60,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the U.S. The disease is aggressive, often found in its later stages, and has poor survival rates.

Alisa Warshay has found many ways to honor and remember her father since his death in 2017. On World Pancreatic Cancer Day, Nov, 18, she shared his experience with News 5, as well how she’s gotten involved following his illness and death.

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PHOTO: Alisa Warshay with her father Marvin, after completing a half marathon in Columbus in 2016.

In 2016, while her father was still alive, Warshay and her husband ran a half marathon in Columbus and raised money, all on behalf of her father.

She’s the communications chair for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, or PanCAN, spreading awareness about this type of cancer and highlighting survivors and caregivers. The organization was a big help to her, especially when her father was first diagnosed.

Through that organization, she’s also participating in PurpleStride, a run/walk event where her team, fittingly, is called “Marvin’s Mensches.”

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PHOTO: "Marvin's Mensches" at a PurpleStride run/walk event.

“A mensch, if you don't know, is a Yiddish word, and it really means like a person of true integrity and that is who my dad was,” Warshay explained.

When it comes to her own health, Warshay is looking into getting genetic testing for herself. She noted that pancreatic cancer symptoms are often vague.

“That's part of the problem. Sometimes people ignore the symptoms because they can be ascribed to so many number of different things,” Warshay said.

She described some of them: blood in one’s stool, back pain, stomach pain, unexplained weight loss. The one that helped her father’s dermatologist catch his cancer: jaundice.

“She noticed almost immediately. She deals with skin,” Warshay said of her father’s jaundice. “She immediately sent him for a whole slew of blood tests and that's how they discovered it. So, you know, I'm very thankful for her and for her being aware.”

Warshay said there are a few reasons it’s not often caught early.

“Unfortunately, there is not an early detection screening like there is for other cancers like colon cancer and breast cancer. Part of the reason is because of the location of the pancreas. It's kind of hidden, so it wouldn't necessarily be an easy thing to do for everybody,” Warshay said.

Her advice to those for whom something doesn’t feel right: Contact your doctor.

“Don't be a hero,” Warshay said. “If it's nothing, that's great. We hope it's nothing. But if it's something, it's really important to catch it as soon as possible.”

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