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Whiz Kid: Ms. Stoltz Goes to Washington

A Santa Monica teen is joining a D.C. effort to advocate for funding for pancreatic cancer research.

There's a new hero in the fight against pancreatic cancer, and it's probably not someone you'd expect: It's a 17-year-old high school student.

Sarah Stolz, a resident of Santa Monica, has lost three relatives to the disease. It claimed the life of her grandfather in December 1993, six months before she was born. In 1999, her grandmother's cause of death was the same. And, after Stolz met her aunt for the first time last year, she died from pancreatic cancer as well.

"Not knowing my grandpa and barely knowing my grandma is hurtful," she told Santa Monica Patch. "This terrible disease has had a huge effect on both sides of my family. It is difficult and hard to ignore the fact that, one day, my mom or dad or sister or even myself could become an easy victim to this life-threatening illness."

"Sarah has been surrounded by this dreaded cancer for too many of her young years," her mother, Mary Ichiuji, added.

On Tuesday, Stolz and her mother will bring their story to Washington, D.C., where they and 600 other Americans will lobby Capitol Hill for increased funding for pancreatic cancer research.

This won't be Stolz's first foray into the fight against the cancer. Over the course of the past six months, she's been involved with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, which is sponsoring the fifth-annual Advocacy Day mobilization and is devoted to patient outreach, education and research fundraising.

After learning about the nonprofit when she was 10 years old, Stolz donated part of her Christmas money to its efforts. She later joined PanCan's L.A. affiliate group and has helped with its recent Purple Stride LA walk, as well as various fundraising and writing campaigns.

Stolz is no stranger to other types of volunteering, either. The  graduate tutors three Santa Monica students at the and helps feed homeless individuals at . While Stolz also spent a year at , she's currently at junior at Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City.

Stolz is most interested in studying medicine, and it's an interest that runs in the family: Her mother, who has lived in Santa Monica since 1986, is the chief of Oncology at Kaiser Permanente in West Los Angeles.

Ichiuji is going with Stolz to D.C., where they'll join a group that is scheduled to meet with health care staffers for Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman Henry Waxman. The PanCan volunteers will advocate support of the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act, which would ensure the National Cancer Institute develops a strategic plan targeting the disease. Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of any major cancer.

"Perhaps what is most alarming is [that] the number of new pancreatic cancer cases and the number of deaths caused by the disease are both increasing at a time when many other cancers are seeing a decline in both figures," PanCan volunteer Michael Timmermann told Santa Monica Patch.

Seventy-five percent of patients diagnosed with the disease die within the first year of diagnosis, and only 6 percent will survive more than five years.

Past Whiz Kids:

Eddie Greenberg June 09, 2011 at 02:47 AM
This is a story that is sad and heart warming at the same time. Sarah is my hero! What a fine young woman. Thank you for this very uplifting portrait of a teenager that is an inspiration!
Isabel Storey June 09, 2011 at 10:33 PM
Congratulations to Sarah and Mary. They are our neighbors - but we never knew they were doing all this. An inspiring story!

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