Kevin Doyle is an accomplished sketch artist, a member of the 501st Legion of Stormtroopers and a “Star Wars” aficionado who made national headlines when he walked 501 miles of hope in honor of his late wife, Eileen, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2012.
The “Star Wars” series has always been a passion of Kevin’s. “When A New Hope was released in 1977, it changed my life and the way I see the world. I was mesmerized,” he said.
When Kevin met the love of his life, Eileen, at a party in 2007, their bond over “Stars Wars” was instantaneous.
“Someone at the party brought some ‘Star Wars’ action figures, and as we all stood around the table chatting, Eileen jumped right into the conversation,” Kevin said.
“I was impressed by her mutual enthusiasm for ‘Star Wars’ and remember thinking, ‘She’s a keeper.’”
Two years later, they were married.
When Eileen was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away in 2012, Kevin was devastated. He knew he had to do something to keep his wife’s memory alive.
“Eileen had walked many of the three-day, 60-mile breast cancer events because she believed that one person can make a difference when they raise awareness, so I knew that if I were to do something in her honor, it would be a walk of some kind.”
“I made a promise to her that no one would ever forget the wonderful person that she was.”
Kevin walked approximately 20 miles a day until he reached Comic-Con. He knew Eileen, who was an avid costumer and would attend 501st Legion events herself, would be with him every step.
“One of my heartbreaks is that we never got that chance to be Stormtroopers together. Once we finally got the kit and I began to assemble the armor, Eileen got sick. As the suit neared completion, it became too unbearable for her to wear it. Eileen troops with me now, every time I wear my armor. I wear it for both us.”
Throughout the walk, many supporters stopped along the way to take pictures and ask him questions.
“The support was overwhelming,” he said. “The armor was a conversation-starter because ‘Star Wars’ is a universal language…who doesn’t know about ‘Star Wars?’ I got a chuckle that people knew that I was a Stormtrooper from the back side. As they approached from their cars they would cheer me on and yell ‘STORMTROOPER!’
“Even still, someone will come up to me and say ‘Are you that Stormtrooper who walked all those miles for your wife?’”
Looking back, Kevin knows he created much-needed visibility for a cancer that, despite the dire statistics, is still in the shadows. Like our organization, he advocates for more research and visibility for the disease.
“I knew very little about pancreatic cancer and wished we were able to take advantage of the benefits of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network when we found out about Eileen’s diagnosis.
The fight against pancreatic cancer needs to be more mainstream. The color purple needs to be as visible as pink is for breast cancer. The visibility will turn into action and participation, which will lead to fundraising, research and a cure,” Kevin said.
When asked about what he remembers most vividly about his wife, Kevin noted her positive and caring disposition.
“Eileen would be heartbroken if I were to let pancreatic cancer mute the person that she was. I instead remember her positive energy, facial expressions, the one-liners, the look in her eyes, her smile and the hugs where my chin would sit on top of her head.”
Similar to the “Star Wars” movies, Kevin said his story is about conquering the Dark Side that pancreatic cancer can bring to people’s lives. The Light Side is the hope, action, awareness and love that keeps people going and will ultimately prevail.
“The farther we walk together, the more it will bring a new hope to those affected by pancreatic cancer,” he said.
Want to raise awareness about pancreatic cancer in your community? Get involved as a volunteer today!