By Michael Buhler
Thirty-six years after losing his father to pancreatic cancer, Benjamin Timoner decided to start fighting back against the deadly form of cancer.
His way of fighting back? Timoner walked across the United States from coast to coast in 2011 – raising over $26,000 for the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research in the process – and he is doing it twice this year. He currently is walking from Santa Monica, Calif. to Long Island, N.Y., and then walking back along a southern course from Tybee Island, Ga. back to Santa Monica.
Timoner is from Albuquerque, N.M.
Timoner came through western Sedgwick County last Thursday, March 28, as he headed east on U.S. Hwy. 54, stopping briefly in Garden Plain on his way to New York.
“It’s a busy road – a lot of trucks,” Timoner said. “People are stopping here and there for me a couple of times a day, though. I’m getting a lot of friendly toots from people’s horns. It’s been all right. I really enjoyed Kingman and Pratt.”
Pancreatic cancer is the nation’s fourth leading cancer killer and has one of the highest mortality rates of any form of cancer, unless it is found early when it can be surgically removed. As recently as 12 years ago, there were fewer than a dozen researchers focused on pancreatic cancer.
“There simply wasn’t enough funding available to support a career in the study of this disease,” Timoner said on his website, BJWalksAmerica.com. “As a result, pancreatic cancer was virtually ignored, and with startling consequences to patients, their families and loved ones.”
Timoner was affected by pancreatic cancer in 1974, when he was just five years old and saw his father, Bertram, succumb to the disease at the age of 41.
“When I turned 41 a couple of years back, I looked into pancreatic cancer and discovered that not a lot of progress had been made in the almost 40 years since he passed,” Timoner said. “The survival rate still remains six percent five years after diagnosis. I thought I’d get off the couch and do something to help change that.”
So far on his trek from Santa Monica to Long Island, Timoner has found nothing but encouragement for his mission.
“What has stood out the most to me is how kind people have been to me and how willing people are to embrace my mission,” Timoner said. “I’ve experienced no malicious intent from anyone. Everyone is really looking for a way to do something positive, and they’ve latched onto me as a way to do that.”
Maybe that is why Timoner’s second cross-country walk has gone so well.
“I thought it was going to be easier because I had no doubters to fuel me, and it has been,” Timoner said. “I’ve been stronger and healthier on this trip. Things have been going fantastic.”
And he definitely has drummed up awareness for pancreatic cancer research on the way.
“It’s gone pretty well,” Timoner said. “I’ve had four media contacts in four days. I’m feeling pretty good about it.”