Cancer research walk to honor Crystal Lake woman

CRYSTAL LAKE – Ken Frenk feels a million miles away from his wife, but all it takes is a 31-mile drive to bring her closer to the heart.

Frenk, who lost his 57-year-old wife to pancreatic cancer in November, will hold the inaugural Walk for Linda on July 14 in Lake Geneva, Wis., where some of the best memories with his wife were made.

The longtime Crystal Lake resident – now residing in Bull Valley – said that whether his wife was shopping at Cornerstone Shop & Gallery, taking a walk around the lake or visiting friends, she was always happy in Lake Geneva, which is why it was the perfect place to celebrate her memory.

“Even when we were dating, we went up there a few times. It was one of her favorite places in the world,” Frenk said. “It’s definitely been emotional getting ready to go there for this, but in a good way. It’s been a roller-coaster.”

Despite the distance, Frenk has seen strong support from friends in the Crystal Lake area along with people in the Lake Geneva community, as close to 200 people are expected at the event and more than $2,000 has been raised for pancreatic cancer research.

The event, which will start at 10 a.m., includes a 3.5-mile walk around Lake Geneva and a silent auction with prizes ranging from tickets to a Milwaukee Brewers game to golf outings and gift cards to businesses.

Katie Lesser, a friend of Frenk’s wife for 24 years, said events such as Walk for Linda not only help raise money for a worthy cause, but also play an important role in the healing process.

Lesser lost her brother to cystic fibrosis 10 years ago and said the complete strangers she met at awareness walks in his honor touched her with their stories and genuine care for the cause.

“I told [Frenk] you will be pleasantly surprised by the amount of people you will meet who are eager to help,” Lesser said. “It really is amazing.”

Supporting research to develop better testing and treatment for pancreatic cancer has become a major passion for Frenk. He said his wife’s diagnosis was shocking as they initially went to the doctor with what they thought was just gallbladder pain.

Instead, it was stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which carries a 5 percent survival rate and four- to five-month life expectancy. Frank said that form of cancer is nearly impossible to detect with current testing methods before it is advanced.

“It’s very hard to detect because there are no symptoms or pain until stage 4,” Frenk said. “They are looking for ways to detect it earlier, and that’s where the funds are going.”

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, based in California, will be at the Lake Geneva event. Frenk is donating all proceeds to the organization.

How to help

What: Walk for Linda

When: 10 a.m. July 14

Where: Downtown Lake Geneva, Wis.

Event: Longtime McHenry County resident Ken Frenk will raise money for pancreatic cancer research in honor of his wife, Linda, whom he lost to the disease in November. Those interested in attending can sign up the day of at the event starting at 8:30 a.m.

For information about the event or how to donate, email bptaunis@yahoo.com or call Frenk at 815-308-5308.

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