BUFFALO, N.Y. — Kevin Hays has been a staunch advocate colorectal cancer awareness ever since he was diagnosed with the disease seven years ago, at the age of just 28.
"I don't want other people to have to go through these challenges," said Hays. "It's not an old man's disease. Colorectal cancer is one of the leading cancer killers, and one of the most diagnosed cancers, but the cure rate is over 90 percent if you catch it in an early stage."
But sadly there is no cure for Kevin. He's fought a long, tough battle, and the husband and father of three young children has now made the difficult decision to end his treatment.
"We made the decision to transfer into hospice care. I want to make the most of the time I have left with my family," said Hays.
But as Hays' brave journey is ending his cousin is starting out on a journey of his own.
Marty Pasternak is a Western New York native and Sweet Home High School graduate who now lives in Phoenix, NY, near Syracuse. Starting on Sunday, August 15, he'll be running the entire length of the Erie Canal from Albany to Buffalo in just seven days. It's a fundraiser he created and calls the Pain in the Canal Challenge.
"The exact number (of miles) is 361.5. It's 52 miles a day which is a double marathon," said Pasternak.
Pasternak says he wants to do something hard to challenge his body and go through some pain, which is just a small fraction of what his cousin Kevin has been through during his cancer battle.
"To see the pain that he and his wife and children have gone through. I never want to see anyone go through that, especially if it's preventable," said Pasternak.
Hays says he's touched by his cousin's efforts.
"Marty was looking for another way to contribute and he's doing it in one of the most aggressive ways I've seen somebody do it and I couldn't be prouder and I couldn't be more humbled."
Pasternak's goal is two-fold. First, he wants to raise $50,000 for Kevin's non-profit foundation, the Buffalo Colon Corps, but he also want to carry on his cousin's legacy and promote the importance of early screening.
"It was shortly after he was diagnosed that I went and got screened for the first time. I want others to do the same," said Pasternak.
And that's the best legacy Hays says he can leave and it's been his mission during his 7-years long battle.
"The best gift someone could give me is to hear the story of someone getting screened because they heard our message. That is the number one thing people can do for me. A close second is donating to Buffalo Colon Corps so it can continue great work in the future," said Hays.
Pasternak is encouraging others to run along side him during his journey or to do their own virtual running challenge. You can track Pasternak's progress on his website and greet him when he arrives at Canalside on Saturday, August 21.
"If there's anyone that's going to be able to pull it off it's Marty. It's gonna be a very happy time, despite the circumstances that we're having to do this event around," said Hays.
To learn more about the Pain in the Canal Challenge, click here.
To learn more about Hays' charity, the Buffalo Colon Corps, click here.