Patrick Swayze died of pancreatic cancer in 2009. The fatal disease took the life of Apple CEO Steve Jobs in 2011. Even Bonnie Franklin, who guest-starred on “The Young and the Restless” as Sister Celeste just last year lost her battle with the deadly cancer in March. And Michael Muhney (Adam Newman), having lost his uncle several years ago to the very same affliction, is speaking up once again to let the world know that it’s time we put a stop to the horrific and painful cancer that claims the lives of nearly 40,000 people each year.
On Sunday, October 27, the star will be hosting The 16th Annual L.A. Cancer Challenge, a charity race that benefits the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. This is the actor’s sixth year as host for the event, which is one of Southern California’s largest and most popular charity races, and he’s more dedicated than ever to help find a cure for the fatal disease.
“This cancer is an underdog. It kills too many people, and it’s not known enough,” Muhney says, adding that once a person is diagnosed with the illness, they generally die within the year. “There is no cure, and at present, there is no stopping this thing.”
As the actor explains, pancreatic cancer funding hasn’t been high, mainly because it’s not an illness most people can easily recognize. “The thing about breast cancer or skin cancer or eye cancer is that you can name a body part, and you know where it is and you figure out what’s going on,” the actor says. “But with pancreatic cancer, it’s this thing that people don’t understand, so there’s been no real funding for it. And depending on the year, it’s in the top two or three deadliest cancers.”
The silver lining of Steve Jobs’ recent death is that it has created a lot more attention for the disease, and Muhney hopes to keep that momentum going. “Breast cancer is well funded, and look at what all of that funding has done: It’s now few and far between to find someone who dies of breast cancer,” he points out. “It happens, but general early detection and things like that can help people avoid the death sentence. And that’s what we’re hoping for with pancreatic cancer, is that eventually, it’s like breast cancer in that it’s not great to be diagnosed with it, but if you are, you’re not going to die.”
Muhney’s dedication to the cause goes beyond just hosting this year’s event. He’s also running in the race, something he does each year to honor his uncle, who was an avid long-distance runner. “My Uncle Mike was diagnosed, and it broke my mom’s heart; we were all reeling,” he shares. ”The Pancreatic Cancer Challenge in Los Angeles that is held every year was gaining traction and raising a lot of money, so I decided I wanted to go run in this and I placed. I sent him my medal; I wanted him to have it, because I ran for him. And it was one of the last things he ever received. He didn’t have another birthday after that, and he didn’t make it to Christmas. So it was like a special gift that I got to send to him that was a connection to this guy that I had always looked up to.”
For more information on how you can donate to the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research or to participate in this year’s L.A. Cancer Challenge race, check out www.lacancerchallenge.com/michaelmuhney.