Local girl does her part to fight pancreatic cancer

For those of you who heard the melodic strains emanating from Mahoning Valley Scrappers stadium just before the first pitch of the ball game at Eastwood Field in Niles last Friday night, you had the good fortune of catching a glimpse of the musical styling of one Samantha Blasko. Her rendition of our national anthem was nothing less than stirring.

Samantha is an incredibly talented singer and guitar player. She’s an honor student at Cardinal Mooney High School who’s extremely involved in many church, civic and charitable organizations – an all around stand-out gal. OK, fine, so I think the world of Sam.

Who wouldn’t?

At the tender age of 17, this kid’s got more presence, grace and purpose than many people twice her age. Need proof? Sam is the driving force behind a charity event taking place this Tuesday, August 12 at Cassese’s MVR Club in Youngstown – a fab spot for food and bocce that sits adjacent to the YSU campus.

The affair is a fundraiser to benefit pancreatic cancer research and it’s taking place between 6 and 10 p.m. It will feature dinner, raffles and oh, yes, entertainment provided by none other than Miss Samantha Blasko.

Many in the region are aware of the CARMSTRONG Foundation, a non-profit entity created in the memory and honor of MVR co-owner Carmine L. Cassese, who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer 13 months ago. Still others of you know that my dear friend and regional weather icon Don Guthrie is currently fighting this same ridiculous and horrendous struggle.

Yet, what most of you reading this may not know is that pancreatic cancer, while thought by the general population to be rare, impacts many more of us than we might realize, including my day boss’s mother-in-law (who is also fighting this rotten disease) and Samantha’s paternal grandmother, Mary Lou Blasko, who lost her brave battle in 2012.

Yep, pancreatic cancer stinks and again, it’s sadly prevalent. In fact, according to the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. The fourth.

Here are some of the other statistics the foundation has revealed:

An estimated 46,420 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the U.S., and more than 39,590 will die from the disease.

Pancreatic is one of the few cancers for which survival has not improved substantially over the course of nearly 40 years.

Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. Ninety-four percent of pancreatic cancer patients will die within five years of diagnosis – only 6 percent will survive more than five years. Seventy-four percent of patients die within the first year of diagnosis.

The average life expectancy after diagnosis with metastatic disease is just three to six months.

Few risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer are defined. Family history of the disease, smoking, age and diabetes are risk factors.

Pancreatic cancer is a leading cause of cancer death largely because there are no detection tools to diagnose the disease in its early stages when surgical removal of the tumor is still possible.

The National Cancer Institute spent an estimated $105.3 million on pancreatic cancer research in 2012. This represented a mere 1.8 percent of the NCI’s approximate $5.8 billion cancer research budget for that year.

Hmm. That last one’s got me irked. Sam, too. Which is why she wanted to do something to strike a blow against pancreatic cancer.

So, the burgeoning singing sensation organized this event in order to “help so many people in our area who are affected by this and maybe help bring awareness to the situation while hopefully spreading some joy in the process.” The dinner is also an homage to Carmine and Sam’s beloved Nana.

Did I mention she’s only 17?

Anyway, if you’re not busy, swing on by the MVR Tuesday for some great food, fun and several covers of country, pop and classic musical selections – as well as some terrific original offerings by Samantha.

For tickets ($10 for adults, $5 for children 10 and younger), please call 330-518-0907, and let’s give pancreatic cancer a drop kick in the gut.

Stupid cancer!

Kimerer is a Tribune Chronicle columnist who hates cancer more than almost anything. Contact her with survival stories at pkimerer@zoominternet.net.