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updated: 10/27/2012 6:33 PM

St. Charles woman makes pancreatic cancer awareness her mission

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  • Judy Sarvas has devoted her life to increasing awareness of pancreatic cancer since it has devastated her family. She will be putting up displays at the St. Charles Municipal Center next month as part of the awareness campaign.

      Judy Sarvas has devoted her life to increasing awareness of pancreatic cancer since it has devastated her family. She will be putting up displays at the St. Charles Municipal Center next month as part of the awareness campaign.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer


Judy Sarvas watched pancreatic cancer devastate her family -- and then discovered the disease was making an attempt at her life.

The 58-year-old St. Charles woman has seen her family ravaged at an astonishing rate as her mother died from the disease in 2008, three months after it killed her uncle. Another uncle died from the disease at age 50 in the early 1980s.

"I lost a mother and beloved uncles from the disease, as our family has the genetic mutation that makes us susceptible," Sarvas said.

Seven of her mother's eight siblings were diagnosed with some form of cancer, and that fate is now moving to the next generations.

In fact, Sarvas' own brother was diagnosed with the disease and underwent major surgery the day their mother was buried. In a sad and ironic twist, her brother also lost his wife and daughter to cancer three years ago.

And yet, Sarvas' heartache and struggles have kept mounting.

Because of the family history, it was not a major surprise that she also became part of what has been a tragic story.

"After I got home from being with my brother in Boston after his surgery, I went to get screened myself and discovered I had stage one pancreatic cancer," she said.

Sarvas underwent surgery and has since been in good health, but as she points out, "I feel fine so far, but the statistics are not with me."

She has devoted the rest of her life to increase awareness of pancreatic cancer and its low survival rate while raising money to fight it. She recently accepted a proclamation from the St. Charles City Council to join a national effort and declare November as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month on behalf of the Chicago South/Western Suburban affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

She'll set up displays in the Municipal Center windows during early November to bring attention to what she calls "a horrible disease that doesn't respond well to chemotherapy and is difficult to diagnose."

Pancreatic cancer has become one of the leading causes of death, Sarvas said, yet it doesn't get nearly as much attention or research funding as other forms of cancer.

She encourages everyone to visit the website to learn more or donate to research funding.

"It's hard to get donations for this, because people don't know as much about it," Sarvas said. "But that's why I am telling the story, in hopes that people will see it and might remember."

Mill Race next?: The new Island Park bridge in Geneva is getting rave reviews from walkers and bikers, as it should. The park district did a wonderful job rebuilding what had deteriorated a bit over the past several decades.

Now, if the city can find someone willing to reinvest in the Mill Race Inn property, the area near the new bridge would be sparkling.

It's painful to see the Mill Race property slowly becoming an eyesore because, quite frankly, it has the potential to return to its past glory as one of the greatest locations along the Fox River.

Spooky for kids: You've probably seen numerous haunted houses and ghost hikes listed in the Daily Herald, but you may have held off on taking your kids younger than 10 to some of these spooky spots that even scare the heck out of adults.

Your chance comes between noon and 3 p.m. today at the Hall Quarry Beach in Batavia. A less-scary kids version of the Haunted Quarry takes place at that time.

The scarier stuff: For those who want the scarier stuff, the Steel Beam Theatre in St. Charles still has its main fundraiser going, the "Scaregrounds" Haunted House at the Kane County Fairgrounds. Get your frights between 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. with this 10-room haunted house featuring 3-D special effects today, and 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and Halloween night.

Hogfan party hog wild: It was great to hear from the family of former Elburn resident Jason Gould, who informed me the Hogfan Party fundraiser for cancer research at the Moose Lodge in St. Charles last month raised $25,000.

That money goes to lead cancer researcher Dr. Rob Baiocchi of the Ohio State University Cancer Research Center. Baiocchi already has saved the lives of others who had the same infection that struck down Jason, and he continues to work on medical advancements.

"Talk of the Town" highlighted in July the story of Jason Gould, who lost his fight against leukemia at age of 33 in 2006 when he contracted a viral infection after a transplant.

Way too long: When I first began working in the St. Charles area as a reporter out of college about 35 years ago, I noticed what looked like an ambitious house project taking place at the Clifford McIlvaine home at 605 Prairie St.

Longtime residents told me this project would never be completed. They were calling it construction of a "bomb shelter," though I have not heard that description since. So who really knows what this has been all about, or if a reasonable conclusion can be expected?

I feel bad about McIlvaine's woes with the city of St. Charles regarding its attempts to get him to finish that construction project and get his plumbing hooked up to city water service. The guy has already sat in jail over this squabble, but the city claims he is making finally making progress.

But I can't shed any tears over this zany saga, mainly because it's been going on for far too long.

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