BETHALTO — In remembrance of a dear friend, Bob Patterson ran through the village streets wearing a Santa hat Tuesday after the conclusion of his friend’s memorial service at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church.
Patterson and about four other friends of Dan Pohlman joined the mini Dash4Dan, running from the Bethalto church to Pohlman’s favorite hangout, Doc Holliday’s, in Cottage Hills, where a party commenced upon their arrival. The Santa hat belonged to the late Pohlman, who lived large despite his diagnosis Oct. 5 last year in Stage 3 of a rare cancer that gave him a 4 percent chance of survival. Pohlman’s wife, Debbie, tearfully yet proudly recalled how 1,000 people showed up for last year’s Dash4Dan 5K in a town with a population of 900.
“Danny, even though he knew he had only a 4 percent chance to live because he was so positive, he suggested a fund-raiser — a 5K run,” Debbie Pohlman said as Patterson and a handful of runners waited for a church luncheon to conclude before they took off on Tuesday’s run. “There’s no treatment, no clinical trials, no founded research for the type of cancer he had.”
Dan Pohlman, 54, died last Friday at his home surrounded by his loving family while holding the hand of his wife of 20 years; he had a rare cancer called neuroendocrine carcinoma that started in the pancreas. Friends, family and Pohlman himself held the Dash4Dan 5K Dec. 16, 2012, to raise awareness and funds about a type of pancreatic cancer that makes up less than 1 percent of all pancreatic cancers; at times, this type of cancer can originate in other areas of the body but most often is pancreatic in nature.
“He said if another family got one more day because of all the experimental treatment that he went through, that his death would be worth it,” his wife said. “He was a very, very selfless man.”
An avid runner himself, for years starting on Thanksgiving day, Pohlman ran 15 miles through Bethalto’s streets every day until at least Dec. 26 wearing his Santa hat. Pohlman’s family, including his twin brother Doug, and his younger brother, Chris, Patterson and others decided immediately upon knowing of Pohlman’s death to run with his plaque from the Siteman Cancer Center from last year’s event and his Santa hat after his memorial Mass.
“He’d love his hat going up there (to Doc Holliday’s),” Doug Pohlman said Tuesday at the church.
The group decided to not only memorialize him but to raise awareness in such a way because they said Dan would have wanted them to do so.
“It’d be the first thing he’d want, to continue to focus on pancreatic cancer, to grow awareness and research efforts,” Debbie said.
The group planned last year’s Dash4Dan 5K in six weeks and expected a small crowd instead of the 1,000 supporters who showed up. They plan to hold the second annual Dash4Dan 5K next year in December.
“I truly think Danny would want us to continue to help these families that he helped,” Debbie said. “He was so proud of this; he stood and greeted every runner that came across the finish line. And one year to the day, at the visitation line, I wasn’t walking away until the last guest came through.”
Pohlman’s family and friends also honored Dan’s wishes Tuesday at Doc Holliday’s.
“All he wanted was a party,” Debbie said. “He’d say, ‘Put your big girl panties on and quit crying.’”
Pohlman also is survived by the couple’s three children: Katie, 26, Justin, 24, and Kaci, 23.
Memorials and donations to pancreatic cancer research can be made to the Siteman Cancer Center in Dan’s memory.