{Story Continued} Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer and the 5K



Over the past several months, I’ve been sharing my journey of survival from pancreatic cancer with you. Last year, my family, my staff and I battled together to overcome a deadly disease.

I’ll never forget how my parents slept overnight day after day next to me at the hospital. I’ll never forget the cold sweats or the dozens of shots I received. I’ll never forget how my wife Lisa Marie stepped up to take care of my kids and our household with zero sleep. I’ll never forget how my staff managed our business and took care of our clients who never knew I was in critical condition.

There’s something else I’ll never forget…..

This last Saturday, I had the honor of being THE featured speaker at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s PurpleStride Cleveland. This is an event designed to educate, raise money and awareness for a deadly disease that effects 44,000 Americans, and only 7,000 will survive.

The 5 year survival rate for someone who’s been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is just 6%. So I’m not out of woods yet BUT I’m one of the very fortunate ones.

I wanted to share with you what I told the crowd of nearly 2,300 participants (of which there were only 16 survivors present, including myself and my good friend’s mother).

Hopefully these words will inspire you as they have inspired me and 2300 others.

Hi, my name is Josh Cantwell, I’m a pancreatic cancer survivor and my personal message to you today is this:

 BE DARING! You just may accomplish something significant or save someone’s life.

Let me explain…..

As I sat and wrote this speech over the past few weeks, I kept thinking just how blessed I am and how honored I’d feel to be in front of you today. I’m not upset that I got cancer. I’m not mad that I was chosen for this. Instead I thank God for putting me through it.

I ALWAYS look for the positive lesson in everything and that’s what I hope to convey to you today.

Over the next couple of minutes, as I tell you about the doctors and the surgery that saved my life, I hope you realize how fortunate and blessed you are even when things don’t go your way. Sometimes it’s hard to see just how blessed we are until we are put to the test.

I’ve been put to the test. Maybe you have too.

Last year……

While watching my wife go through an emergency C-section I had a giant lump in my stomach, seeing my son struggle to breathe and almost turn blue, watching my son recover from head and neck surgery at just 3 weeks old, sleeping overnight in a chair at the hospital next to my son while waiting my own battery of tests, getting pancreatic cancer, having major surgery, battling an infection for 4 weeks, leaving my daughters Christmas play because I was dripping in sweat, having dozens of sleepless nights, and losing nearly 50 lbs in 3 weeks was all worth the experience because of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

I’m a completely different man today than I was just 1 year ago. Still, I feel overwhelmed by this entire experience.

You see…Back on January 3rd 2012 

I walked into Dr. Ali’s office. He is my oncologist and the doctor who originally diagnosed me with pancreatic cancer last year.

After waiting a few minutes, Dr. Ali walks into the exam room. He asks a few questions about my surgery but immediately goes to the computer.

I watched his mouth drop open as he read the post – surgery report.

Dr. Ali is reading the report about how back on November 21st 2011 I had the surgery that would save my life. Dr. Ali read about how the surgical team took out a basketball sized pancreatic cancer out of my abdomen, how they took out my gall bladder, my spleen, my entire stomach, 75% of my pancreas, and 25% of my liver. He read on about how I lost 21 units of blood and how I was losing blood as fast as they were putting it into me. He read about how they took a vein out of my leg and put it into my liver.

After finishing the report, in near disbelief, Dr. Ali made a comment I WILL NEVER FORGET.

After taking a second to collect his thoughts he said, “Josh, your surgeon, Dr. Walsh is a DARING SURGEON.”

I sat back in my chair. I was completely caught off guard.

“What do you mean he’s a daring surgeon” I responded.

“Well, let me explain,” said Dr. Ali. “Most other surgeons would have opened you up, saw the cancer, how big it was, how it was wrapped up in all your other organs, how complicated the surgery would be and they would have sewn you back up and told you there’s nothing I could do.”

“So you are telling me the only reason I’m sitting here is because Dr. Walsh was willing to operate on me, take a chance and be daring?” I asked in disbelief.

“Exactly” Dr. Ali responded.

As I think this statement and this experience I can’t help but think about what I’ve learned and how I can apply it to the 2nd half of my life.

What can I change? What can I personally do better with the extra time I’ve been given? What have I learned?

So I’ve learned dozens of lessons fighting pancreatic cancer. 

Here’s just a few lessons of all the different ones I’ve learned in the past 11 months.

First, I am alive and cancer free for several reasons. None are more important than the fact that God blessed me with incredible support. God blessed me with an incredible wife, Lisa Marie. He blessed me with 3 gorgeous kids. He blessed me indestructible parents and 2 kick ass brothers.

Second, God also blessed Dr. Walsh with amazing talent and skill.

And God blessed me with Dr. Walsh.

And Dr Walsh was DARING.

Sometime over the past 30 years, I’m not sure when, I’ll bet Dr. Walsh took his amazing God given talents and then made a personal decision that he would be THE BEST at his craft. Not good at his craft BUT THE BEST. He would study harder. Work harder. Work longer. Mentally prepare better than anyone else. Then because he knew he was prepared, he would DARE to try things no one else would try. He would DARE to perform surgeries that would save lives that no one else would DARE do.

And in the process, he would save hundreds of lives because he was more physically and mentally prepared and he is willing to be daring!

I am one of those lives.

So in 2012, I’ve made the commitment to be even more daring than before. I will prepare harder both physically and mentally. I will out work and out hustle all my competition. I will venture out into the unknown, try new things and I will be daring.




There’s most likely some venture, some trip, some business, some relationship, SOMETHING that you’d like to do this year that maybe you’ve been putting off. I ask you to DARE yourself to do it this year. No more waiting. No more obstacles. Get prepared. DARE to do the things you’ve always wanted to do. Be GREAT!

Out hustle, out work and out produce all your competition. Honor our friends and family who we have lost.  Honor the doctors and nurses who save people’s lives. Honor the God who created us and gave us amazing days like today in your own way by DARING to change the lives of the people around you. Dare to be different. Dare to make a significant impact on something or someone you love.

I challenge you this year to get prepared, get confident, be the best, out hustle and out work your competition……. AND BE DARING.

You may accomplish something significant, something you never dreamed of or even save someone’s life.

Thank You. Have a Great Day Today. God Bless.

A special thanks to everyone who supported us throughout my fight and for this event. I’m proud to say that “Team Cantwell” was the #3 fundraising team at PurpleStride Cleveland out of over 2300. Collectively we raised over $7,500 dollars in registrations, cash donations and donations in kind! I was honored to have over 65+ friends and family members there to support me and cheer us all on.


I have special thoughts and prayers for the families who have lost a love one and for those who are currently battling the disease.

I met a girl there who has Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer and just weeks to live.

You know what? SHE RAN THE 5K.

Don’t tell me you can’t overcome whatever it is you are going through. Don’t tell me you can’t overcome stress, loss of job, loss of a family member, loss of income.

If a young girl, just 34 years old with little kids, can run a 5k with weeks to live you can DO ANYTHING!!!!!!!!!


To read more about my battle with pancreatic cancer, click here and here.

Thanks to each of you who donated!


Joanne Abramczyk
Richard Abramczyk
Alayna Ammiller
Jessica Ammiller
Matt Ammiller
Wanda Ammiller
Trude Bartucz
Anthony Camilleri
Alessandra Cantwell
Dominic Cantwell
Giuliana Cantwell
Josh Cantwell
Derek Cantwell
Emily Cantwell
Hannah Cantwell
Joseph Cantwell
Lisa Cantwell
Mark Cantwell
Matt Cantwell
Michelle Cantwell
Nayla Cantwell
Pat Cantwell
Paul Cantwell
Rebecca Cantwell
Frances Chaszeyka
Douglas Christie
Gina Costanzo
Sandra Crumbley
Michael Curtis
Sandy Del Monte
John Delgado
Ava Dress
Maria Dress
Michael Dress
Sue Dress
Tim Dress
Mark Evans DM
Lutul Farrow
Julia Fasano
Vanessa Fasano
Wendy Feen
John Fulleylove
John Galt
Michael Gleba
Geraldine Griffin
George Harabin
Marsha Harris
David Holloway
Charles Jeseo
Jim Jungeberg
Peter Kadras
Lisa & Jerry Kayser
Nate Kennedy
Brett Ketvertis
Mike Kleinstub
Tim & Liz Krolikowski
Jack Kurtz
Linda LaCorte
John Lapolla
Tom & Patty Lehner
Mike Leighton-Herrmann
David & Susan Levy
David Lindahl
Melinda Maciaszek
Scott Maddin
Austin Maffei
Tammy Maffei
James Mardis
Diane May
Joy McClelland
Kahl McDevitt
Scott Miller
Kyla Mitchell
Lindsay Mitchell
Paul Mitchell
Michael Moulton
Barbara Myers
Heather O'Brien
Jake Pease
Ron Pekkanen
Brian Pfaffenberger
Cheryl Pfaffenberger
Nancy Popovich
Mike Radtke
Kathy Ralofsky
Robert Rock
Mark Rodriguez
Aden Rusfeldt
Angie Salisbury
Mary Stead
Candace Stroud
Dan Swaim
Josh Tobias
Tracey Tobias
David Tully
Jeff Usner
Marie Vagt
Mary Jo Vondra
Derek Walkush
Derek Walkush JR
Donald Watson
Kevin Wilke
Paul Wilkes
Michael Worden


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