From personal experience, I know how scary the anticipation of the first day of chemo can be. In my case, there was a month interval between my Whipple surgery and chemotherapy. That was to let me be strong enough to endure the rigors of chemo. And rigorous it was. With numerous side effects. BUT, I’d do it all over again because it has improved the overall quality of my life. Thank you Team Vacirca and all the folks at New York Cancer and Blood Specialists.
So, when I came across an infographic on preparing for the first day of chemotherapy, I knew it had to be shared.
Read about this amazing 21-year-old. In a word, WOW!
Yesterday and today, we highlight two truly inspirational role models. One is 55 years old and battling lung cancer. The other is 21 years old with long-term heart issues. Neither has let their health problems slow them down. Bravo!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Stevie Wisz — Role Model as a Courageous Young Athlete
Stevie Wisz is a 21-year-old who plays on the UCLA women’s softball team. And she has had to battle heart issues virtually her entire life. Nonetheless, this is one highly motivated young woman. Quit or give up is not in her vocabulary.
Stevie’s story is an uplifting one that will also draw a tear from readers. Anyone who does a blanket job criticizing today’s young adults through stereotypes such as lazy and unmotivated, needs to rethink their view.
At one year old, “In San Luis Obispo, doctors diagnosed Stevie Wisz with aortic stenosis, the severe narrowing of the aorta as it branches out from the heart. Stevie’s aortic valve was one-sixteenth the size it should have been. With such a narrow passageway, much of the blood her heart was pumping was leaking back into the heart chamber, meaning her heart had to work that much harder to pump blood throughout her body.”
“Wisz would eventually need open-heart surgery to save her life. But the doctors suggested postponing the surgery as long as possible to allow the heart to grow closer to its full size. They would keep an eye on Wisz through regular checkups. Over the next several years, she lived like many other little girls, competing in soccer, basketball and track. In a fourth-grade track meet, she remembers running as hard as she could but finishing a distant last. ‘That was the first time I remember thinking I was different,’ she said.”
“Over time, the blood leaking back into her heart went from a mild problem to moderate to severe. By the summer of 2006, after fourth grade, doctors said it was time for surgery.”
Stevie in 2019
“Now 21, Stevie Wisz has reached a point where her heart is 100 percent reliant on her pacemaker. If the pacemaker stops, she collapses. The leakage in her aorta is again severe. And yet she’s a Division I athlete who every day tries to push her body to its own unique limits. In last year’s Women’s College World Series, she leapt at the fence to rob Florida’s Janell Wheaton of a go-ahead home run. In April, she made a face-first, diving catch on a sinking liner against Cal, preserving a 1-0 UCLA victory. ‘You have to understand,’ Kylee Perez said. ‘Stevie isn’t someone who is just going to give up.’
“Each day that passes this spring, each victory that draws the Bruins one step closer to the Women’s College World Series, brings Wisz’s college playing career closer to an end — and closer to yet another open-heart surgery. She had circled the dates for months now. June 3-5 is the championship series, a destination UCLA has not reached since winning its most recent national championship, in 2010. June 13 is the day Wisz will walk across the Pauley Pavilion stage and receive a bachelor’s degree in biology from UCLA. And then June 21, one week later, she will head into another operating room for another attempt to solve the problem she has fought since that first checkup when she was 1.”
STEVIE, WE’RE ROOTING HARD FOR YOU THROUGH YOUR SURGERY AND LONG-TERM HEALTH.
Click the image to read more about this INCREDIBLE young woman. She is the epitome of the human spirit — and what we can accomplish if we push ourselves.
Stage-four lung cancer patient goes full throttle with children.
Today and tomorrow, we highlight two truly inspirational role modelss. One is 55 years old and battling lung cancer. The other is 21 years old with long-term heart issues. Neither has let their health problems slow them down. Bravo!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Isabella de la Houssaye — Lung Cancer Role Model
Isabella de la Houssaye is a stage-four lung cancer survivor who chooses to live life every day. And then some!! She makes the rest of us look like slackers for not doing what we set out to achieve. LOL.
“Isabella de la Houssaye raised her five children on adventure. Then came a brutal diagnosis, and a burning desire for a final journey with each one. For two decades, Isabella, 55, an outdoors enthusiast, longtime mountain climber, veteran marathoner, and triathlete, and her husband, David Crane, a top financier in the energy industry, have raised their five children, who all use the surname Crane, on adventure. These excursions, like riding horses from Siberia to the Gobi Desert, often with no one but their mother, led them to extraordinary athletic feats.”
“When Isabella’s lung cancer was diagnosed, in January 2018, she was not sure if she had months or even weeks to live. Bedridden and in excruciating pain with tumors in her pelvis, spine and brain, she qualified for a trial treatment and was prescribed two anticancer drugs that alleviated the pain and blocked the spread of cancer cells. The treatment is usually effective for 18 months, then the patient often deteriorates.”
“As her strength returned last year, she made plans to go on adventures — maybe the final ones — with each of her children, ages 16 to 25. There were lessons she wanted to share with her children about grit, persistence and mindfulness. In April 2018, she hiked more than 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago, a medieval pilgrimage route in Spain, with Oliver. Then, last June, she ran a marathon in Alaska with Cason. In September, she, her husband and three of their children finished an 80-mile ultramarathon in Kazakhstan. A week later, she and her son David completed a full Ironman — a triathlon consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile run — in South Korea.”
In January, she and Bella, her third child and only daughter, traveled to Argentina to conquer Aconcagua. Technically, Aconcagua is a relatively easy mountain because it doesn’t require ropes, ice axes, or climbing skills. But it is a two-week climb that requires sleeping in freezing tents while withstanding subzero temperatures and brutal winds. Isabella, significantly weakened by chemotherapy and weighing less than 100 pounds, knew this mountain was going to inflict its pain and push her and her daughter to the edge. That was the point. This trek was an attempt to deliver a few essential lessons to her daughter while she still could, including the acceptance not only of life’s triumphs, but its woes — ‘joy and suffering alike,’ she said.”
Click the image to read more about this AMAZING woman. She is the epitome of the human spirit — and what we can accomplish if we push ourselves.
“Historically, doctors have given pancreatic cancer patients chemotherapy or radiation hoping it would cause the tumor to shrink or pull away from the artery or vein it’s ensnared. Dr. Mark Truty, a surgical oncologist at Mayo Clinic, believes that’s the wrong approach. ‘You’re going to be sorely disappointed if that’s what you’re expecting’, Truty told NBC News.”
“About a third of pancreatic cancer cases are found at stage 3. Truty estimates about half of his pancreatic cancer patients diagnosed at this stage seek his care after other physicians said their tumors could not be surgically removed. His team’s approach to treating stage 3 pancreatic cancer is different from most other oncology practices”
“The Mayo Clinic approach works like this. Patients are given extended, personalized chemotherapy until levels of a tumor marker in the blood called CA 19-9 fall to a normal range. Then if a PET scan shows the tumor is destroyed, doctors move forward with radiation and surgery.”
“Among 194 pancreatic cancer treated this way at the Mayo Clinic, 89 percent lived longer than the expected 12 to 18 months. The approach has pushed average survival to five years after diagnosis, according to a study by the Mayo Clinic.
To learn more, watch the following video. Note: The beginning of the video may be a downer. But the overall video is hopeful.
With the beginning of 2019, I have embarked on the next stage of life. For me, that means retirement from my full-time profession. For 44 years, I was a professor (the last thirty, a distinguished professor). But I am not retiring from life. And there are several things I plan to do in the future.
While at theZarb Business SchoolofHofstra Universityfor all of those 44 years, I had a very rewarding career. I was extremely involved in the three pillars of academe: teaching undergraduate and graduate classes; engaging in scholarly research; and providing service to my department, my school, and to the university overall. Along the way, I was fortunate enough to also co-author two leading textbooks that were used worldwide and that went through many new editions. And I was lucky enough to be recognized with a teacher of the year award and four dean’s awards for service to the business school.
But, I realize that at this point that I want to move onto the next phase of my life. As this blog has noted before, I do not intend to “throw away” any days. And I want to live life every day. This is a time for reflection — both keeping my positive memories as well as striving to build new ones.
It was essential for me to retire while healthy enough to enjoy my next series of adventures. I will NEVER forget how lucky I am to be a pancreatic cancer survivor who celebrates four years post-surgery next month.
So, where am I going in this next chapter? 🙂
These are my priorities, with more to come:
To give back to my fellow cancer victims and their families through blog posts, other social media, and related efforts.
I am thankful each and every day to celebrate the blessing of life.
As those of you who follow this blog know, I am a VERY lucky survivor of pancreatic cancer. On February 12, 2019, it will be four years since I had my successful Whipple surgery. My longevity is related to my embracing life and choosing happiness.
Today, I want to share a few FREE resources I have developed and tell my personal story. Why? To provide hope and serenity for anyone with a serious disease and their loved ones. We must never forget that our caregivers suffer and endure along with us.
Resources for Better Embracing Life and Choosing Happiness
After recovering from my surgery and follow-up chemotherapy, I view my life’s mission as assisting others with a terrible illness. To me, this is a responsibility that I welcome as one of the relatively few long-term pancreatic cancer survivors. In my mind and heart, I MUST give back.
So, please take a look at these resources.
Surviving Cancer and Embracing Life: My Personal Journey
With this book, I want to share my personal cancer journey with you. I want to offer hope and support to those dealing with a terrible disease and their families. Why? To quote the late NY Yankee star Lou Gehrig when he was honored at Yankee Stadium while dying from ALS: “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
The book is a hopeful, but realistic, view of my journey from diagnosis through treatment through return to work and my being able to walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding. It has some humor and many quotes to ease the reading.
Click the book cover to download a FREE copy of the book. Then, share it with someone you love.
Living Well While Surviving Cancer
During the summer, I started a new blog to share health-related information and inspirational stories. It features infographics, videos, articles, and more. And despite the title, it relates to a wide range of health issues.
Click the image to visit the blog. Then, PLEASE sign up to follow us.
Finally, check out these new resources. Welcome aboard!
In early 2015, my wonderful endocrinologist Dr. Joseph Terrana ran a routine blood test (part of my three-month testing as a diabetic). And he did not like the results. So, he sent me for an immediate CT-scan. It showed a lump in my pancreas. Soon after, I underwent 9-hour Whipple surgery by Dr. Gene Coppa of Northwell and the Hofstra Medical School. The tumor was malignant, but removed in full. After a short recuperation, I underwent six months of chemotherapy and other treatments under the supervision of Dr. Jeffrey Vacirca and his right-hand person Diana Youngs, nurse-practitioner, of NSHOA (now New York Cancer & Blood Specialists).
Why do I consider myself so lucky?
I was diagnosed REALLY early and had surgery shortly after. And pancreatic cancer can be a real killer because eighty percent are diagnosed too late for surgery.
My family and friends have been terrific every day. And I have bonded with other cancer survivors.
My medical team has been extraordinary. Besides being excellent professionals, they are caring and devoted. They are dedicated to making our lives as comfortable as possible.
I work in a profession I love. I’ve been at Hofstra University for 43 years. Except for sitting out the spring 2015 semester, I have not missed one class since since then.
I have a drive that encourages me to be upbeat about dealing with life’s events. Thus, I have two mantras: “Live life every day” and “Happiness is a choice.”
On February 12, 2019, I celebrate FOUR years since surgery. After finishing chemo in August 2015, my CT-scans have all been clean. My plan is to be around for many more years.
My personal advice:
Do not avoid the doctor because you are afraid of what he/she may find.
Early detection is the best way to mitigate your health problems. Have regular checkups and blood tests.
Listen to the medical professionals!
Surround yourself with family and friends who are supportive.
Be upbeat; getting down is counter productive. [(a) When diagnosed, I set two goals: to dance at my daughter’s October 2015 wedding and to deliver a toast. Mission accomplished. I never thought these things wouldn’t happen. (b) People don’t believe me when I remark that I never said “why me”? Instead I say, “boy was I lucky to be diagnosed so early.”]
Seek out your friends/acquaintances who have also dealt with cancer. They can be a wonderful resource and sounding board (when you don’t want to further burden your family).
Be active. [I went to the gym while undergoing chemotherapy.]