We often receive the question, “What is Pants Off Racing?” In short, we are a group of high energy, fun loving, sports enthusiasts who created Pants of Racing as a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of, and helping those affected by, pancreatic cancer. However, I find that most people don’t get this message from us and/or the real reason we started Pants Off Racing (“POR”) and why it exists today. Nor do we ever really communicate the more serious side of what we do as a group. Contrary to popular belief, POR is a whole lot more than most of our friends and family think. While we can be spotted making friends and wearing costumes at races, triathlons, concerts, beaches, and mountains all over the country – there is a lot more to our organization than just having a good time. In 2012, we made serious progress and finally convinced the state of California to legitimize us as an official 501c-3 non-profit organization. Honestly, that’s kind of a big deal. Although we are probably better known for our eccentric antics and strange vocabulary than anything else, our true mission and cause is a serious one that is very close to our hearts. We hope that this message can provide you with the real reason POR is here today and answer the question, “What is POR?”
POR is here today because of my mama (!) – Nancy “Pants” Amato. I still remember the exact moment I was told that my mom had pancreatic cancer – it is one of those moments that you will never forgot and changes your life forever. It was during the spring of my sophomore year in college and, at the time, I had no idea what pancreatic cancer was or how this would ultimately impact me and my family. It wasn’t until some time later I learned that the doctor’s diagnoses only gave Nancy Pants 6 months to live. I completely understand my parents’ reluctance to tell us the truth and shield us from the initial prognosis, but in reality she was in some serious trouble. I try to relate to what my mother is going through and try to imagine what that news must feel like and how much courage it must take to keeping fighting, keep hoping, and keep living. Personally, I can’t even think of one doctor’s visit when I hadn’t accepted the doctor’s words as anything but fact, and Nancy Pants’ ability to refuse this death sentence is one of the most incredible acts of courage I have ever witnessed. I admire my mother for many reasons, but more than anything else, I admire the determination and strength she has shown throughout her fight with pancreatic cancer.
At first, I had wondered how this could possibly happen to me and my family. Why us, right? Our world was turned sideways and upside down. Eventually we soon realized that this hardship was not just about us – it was about a whole lot of other people out there facing the exact same things. Our family was facing a very real and scary reality of death, and it only took a short time for us to realize that we are not alone. From the very beginning we had the caring support of family and friends that showed us that it is possible for some good to come of this. And, driven by the support we received as a family, we hope to make a similar, personal impact on those families that are faced with the difficulties we continue to experience in our own family. It has dawned on me that the stubbornness instilled in me being an Amato has provided at least one redeeming outcome. So, instead of sitting back we started POR to fight this disease and fully adopt this cause. We organized this group because of the very unfortunate circumstances pancreatic cancer victims face each day. Over time, we have come to realize that we can only thank God and the people who have been so instrumental in our lives who helped our mother keep living her life. Miraculously, we are lucky to say that she has defied all the odds from the doctor’s initial diagnosis.
Now, let’s go back…”What is Pants Off Racing?” POR is a group of people dedicated to helping those affected by pancreatic cancer. We believe that by providing support for pancreatic cancer victims and their families, we can improve and significantly diminish the harsh reality of their current circumstances.
Pants Off Racing has two goals. They are, to:
- Spread awareness about pancreatic cancer; and
- Directly connect with families and individuals impacted by pancreatic cancer.
As a group, we accomplish these goals by doing whatever it is we can for those in need. A lot of these things are small, but we have learned that every action makes a difference. Our Christmas Wish List Program, Purple Shirt Thursdays, Music by POR, team events and races are the ways we spread hope throughout the pancreatic cancer community. These efforts spread awareness and directly benefit the lives of those who suffer from the hardships of pancreatic cancer, and that is our main priority. Providing compassionate support to pancreatic cancer victims and families is how we are going to fight this disease.
We continue to learn about the harsh realities of pancreatic cancer. For us four Amato kids, it has truly made us grateful for every day we are given to spend with our mother, Nancy Pants. At the same time, it has been impossible for us to ignore the physical changes our mom has endured throughout the years. In addition to the chemo, radiation, and constant medical attention that fighting this disease requires, she has successfully dealt with the new (fatigue, diabetes, weight loss, etc.) and old (her loving but often exhausting husband Chris) obstacles that aren’t at the forefront of this disease. Given the facts and statistics of this disease, six years in, her circumstances are astounding.
What you may not know is:
Pancreatic cancer is one of the fastest killers in the cancer family, and the 5-year survival rate is only 5 percent. At the same time, pancreatic cancer has been drastically overlooked in the public eye. The understanding of pancreatic cancer – that is, detection and treatment – lags far behind that of most other forms of cancer. For instance:
- Nearly 42,470 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, and over 34,000 will die from the disease.
- Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers, with an average life expectancy after diagnosis of just 3 – 6 months.
- 75% of pancreatic cancer patients die within the first 12 months of the diagnosis.
- The National Cancer Institute (NCI) spent an estimated $97.1 million on pancreatic cancer research. In 2010, a sum comprising just 2% of the NCI’s $5 billion annual cancer research budget.
Increasing awareness of pancreatic cancer and its hardships, statistics, and realities is our platform to make some change in the lives of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The lack of awareness has prevented any real changes over the past 30 years and it seems that the extremely aggressive nature of this cancer has only made it more difficult for people to fully understand and react to what is happening. Consequently, the funding for research and support programs is significantly less than that of other cancers.
POR has a simple mission: to do as much as possible with what we have. One thing we have realized is that Nancy Pants could not withstand this battle without the support of her friends, doctors, and many others. POR excels in creating positivity and having great times in the face of dire situations, while still making a difference in the lives of others. The phrase, “you can hope or you can help,” is something we take to heart and it is our goal to live and act within our means to help as many victims and families that are dealing with the same hardships we have seen in our own family.
We would like to thank everyone involved in POR and we hope you are as excited as we are at this point. Your love and support does not go unnoticed.
As you were.
“As you have experienced, you will survive this situation. So move slowly and wisely. And make the most of every day that you are privileged to have.“