Category Archives: Hope and Inspiration

Bombing survivor focuses on finding cure for #PanCan

A local man who survived the Boston Marathon bombing hopes to make a change and help find a cure for people with pancreatic cancer.

In 2012, avid runner Phil Kent, 59, trained for the Boston Marathon, but four months before the race he had chronic back pain that resulted in a devastating diagnosis – pancreatic cancer.

“I was in total shock and disbelief for the most part because every other aspect of my life was healthy and I felt good,” he said.

Phil, while thinking his days were numbered, focused on making his dream of running the prestigious race into a reality. His physician, Dr. Gary Schwartz at Kaiser Permanente Woodland Hills, believed exercise would give Phil the fuel he needed to beat his disease.

“When you talk to him about marathons his eyes light up. That’s a very important part of his being,” Schwartz said.

Doctors tailored Phil’s chemotherapy for training and his surgery was scheduled for 10 days after the big race.

But then tragedy struck. As he neared the finish line in Boston on April 15, 2013, his wife Sharon stopped him to take a photo. Phil said that ended up saving his life because seconds later the first bomb went off.

In a photo taken overhead, Phil and his two companions can be seen right next to where the second bomb exploded, about 20 yards away from the finish line.

“As we were coming up, we were grabbing our hands to get our picture taken crossing the finish line. That’s the stage we were at and that’s where we were,” he said.

With major pancreatic surgery just days away, Phil believed he would never race again. But he found inspiration in the Hirshberg Foundation, a nonprofit focusing on pancreatic cancer research. His new focus was on the L.A. Cancer Challenge, a race for the cure.

Now, nearly three years after his diagnosis, Phil wants to inspire other pancreatic cancer patients not to give up. In 2014, he got his chance to cross the Boston finish line.

This Sunday, he hopes thousands of supporters will help him complete what he believes is the race to save lives.

To learn more about the 2015 L.A. Cancer Challenge, check out their website at http://support.pancreatic.org/site/.

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*credit verbatim via Denise Dador and http://abc7.com/society/local-marathon-runner-focuses-on-finding-cure-for-pancreatic-cancer/1045331/*

Ann Walsh with the Lustgarten Foundation

Ann Walsh, Events Director, The Lustgarten Foundation – The Fight Against Pancreatic Cancer

From day one when I was first asked to join The Lustgarten Foundation in 1998, I was – and continue to be – amazed by the tremendous determination and dedication of the tens of thousands of extraordinary people who have joined us in the fight against pancreatic cancer.

At the time, there was little understanding of pancreatic cancer, and only a handful of researchers were studying this disease. Pancreatic cancer is the nation’s most lethal cancer. The overall five-year survival rate is just 7%. There are no early detection tests, no effective long-term treatments and, unless the cancer is surgically removed in its earliest stages, no cure. Yet, only 2% of federal funding is directed toward pancreatic cancer research. To help change these facts, The Lustgarten Foundation, based in Bethpage, Long Island, was established in 1998 by Cablevision Chairman Charles Dolan and Chief Executive James Dolan in honor of former Cablevision Vice Chairman Marc Lustgarten before he died from pancreatic cancer.

Today, I am so proud that The Lustgarten Foundation has grown to become the nation’s largest private funder of pancreatic cancer research. Since its inception, the Foundation has committed more than $110 million to over 175 research projects at nearly 60 medical and research centers worldwide in support of promising pancreatic cancer research aimed at developing an early detection test, improving treatments, and finding a cure. Recently, The Lustgarten Foundation established The Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Research Laboratory on Long Island in partnership with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The lab is one of the few labs in the world focused exclusively on pancreatic cancer research. And due to Cablevision’s support of The Lustgarten Foundation, 100 percent of every dollar donated to the Foundation goes directly to pancreatic cancer research.

As events director, I recall my early days at the Foundation and the beginning of The Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk series. That first walk took place in Long Island, attracting just over 1,000 participants and raised more than $150,000. Today, the Foundation’s walk series now takes places in more than 30 locations across the country, uniting thousands in the fight against this disease. This is in addition to nearly 300 events run by volunteers throughout the year in support of the urgent need to fund more research to find a cure.

I consider myself lucky to have said ‘yes’ when invited so many years ago to work with the Foundation. My life has been transformed. The work is incredibly rewarding. The people I meet at the Foundation’s events across the country are always so inspiring and I am deeply grateful that every day I witness the hope that research brings to so many.

I invite you to see how easy it is to get involved and to learn more at curePC.org. Anyone can get pancreatic cancer, that’s why we need everyone to join us in the fight. Together, we can change the facts about pancreatic cancer.

How Banishing Negative Thoughts Helped Me Beat Pancreatic Cancer, Twice

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The power of positivity: How banishing negative thoughts helped me beat pancreatic cancer, twice

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal human diseases known to man. Each year, more than 40,000 Americans are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and 95 percent die within the next 12 months. Steve Jobs, Patrick Swayze, opera singer Luciano Pavarotti: These celebrities all died from pancreatic cancer.

Because survival rates are low, and treatment options are limited and usually ineffective, pancreatic cancer can be deadly to the body and spirit, and considered tantamount to a death sentence. But that doesn’t have to be the case: I survived the most lethal type of this disease— not once, but twice.

Persevering through that second bout— a spread of this cancer to my liver after a long period of remission— is virtually miraculous and defies clear explanation. I have been physically fit and active my entire life, and was treated by superbly trained doctors at one of the best hospitals in America, but so have many others whose lives have been claimed by this horrible ailment.

Those factors undoubtedly helped me beat another round of pancreatic cancer, but, equally important, so did my attitude.

Instead of succumbing to defeat, I made a deliberate decision to stay upbeat during my illness, which was a life-altering challenge amidst my diagnosis and all the brutal treatment, including two major surgeries— one more complex than a heart transplant— experimental radiation, conventional radiation and chemotherapy. I detailed my choice to remain positive while battling cancer in my recently published book, “The Ripple Effect: How a Positive Attitude and a Caring Community Helped Save My Life.”

My wife, Karen, was instrumental in this attitude change. Right before my second diagnosis was confirmed, she reminded me how much we’d been through and how important it was to be as positive as we could to get through everything together with grace. I made it my priority to survive— next, I had to figure out how to move toward this goal.

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*credit verbatim via foxnews.com and Steven Lewis*

Record-Breaking $2 Mil Raised at Holiday Rock and Roll Bash to Beat Pan Can

*credit verbatim via The Lustgarten Foundation*

A Record-Breaking $2 Million Raised at Holiday Rock & Roll Bash
in Support of The Lustgarten Foundation’s Fight to
Beat Pancreatic Cancer

BETHPAGE, NY, December 4, 2014 – On Wednesday evening, December 3, Cablevision Systems Corporation, The Madison Square Garden Company, and AMC Networks hosted the fourteenth annual Holiday Rock & Roll Bash to benefit The Lustgarten Foundation, the nation’s largest nonprofit funder of pancreatic cancer research. Held at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City, the event raised $2,060,000, breaking its previous all-time fundraising record. Due to the support of Cablevision, 100 percent of every dollar raised goes directly to pancreatic cancer research.

The Holiday Rock & Roll Bash is The Lustgarten Foundation’s premier annual event, raising nearly $19 million in the fight against pancreatic cancer since it was created in 2001. More than 1,100 guests attended this year’s Bash. The evening’s entertainment included live rock-and-roll music, along with special appearances by the world-famous Radio City Rockettes and a very jolly Santa Claus.

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*credit verbatim via The Lustgarten Foundation*

Part Six: Dusk And Summer

I had no outlet for my grief after my father passed. All I knew was that I needed to honor his fight, his bravery, in some endearing fashion. I could not bear the thought that after everything he had gone through battling pancreatic cancer, then suddenly that was it. To believe his life ended that way betrayed what he had endured. There had to be more. I simply refused to use two of the coldest words in our language – the end.

Six months after he passed, I sat behind my computer and typed this sentence: I lost my father between dusk and summer. So began the telling of a myth.

Life is a series of stories waiting to be told. They are inside all of us to be poured like a good wine, a little at a time. Sipped. Savored.

Shared.

Some stories are real. Some embellished. Some take a life all their own.

Some simply possess magic from the start.

You just need to believe…

In honor of my father, I proudly donate proceeds from Dusk and Summer to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. Together, we can make a difference.

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Does Heaven await beneath the waves? One man needs to know.

When his dying father whispers a cryptic message to him, he has no choice but to summon his courage and begin the quest of a lifetime. It’s a race against time to realize his father’s wish and fulfill his own destiny; it’s a discovery of the unbreakable bond between father and son. It’s a journey of the heart that unfolds where only the Chosen exist – in the moments between Dusk and Summer.

“A poignant, metaphoric conversation between son and father. A story that will warm your heart.” –Yvonne S. Thornton, M.D., bestselling author of The Ditchdigger’s Daughters

The author will be donating a portion of the proceeds from this book to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

Dusk and Summer is available at:
Amazon: US |UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | India | Brazil
CreateSpace | Smashwords
Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes (Apple)

Part 5: A Saint Goes Marching In

Part 4: Lazarus

Part 3: Faith and Windows

Part 2: Phone Booths and Four Words

Part 1: Renovations; Shaken Foundations

November 1 – Purple Hope and Saints

Part 5: A Saint Goes Marching In

It was a gut-wrenching decision for me to make.

My good friend Chris listened patiently on the phone; I had called him when my father was released from the hospital and into hospice. For some time I’d been agonizing over writing a eulogy for my father. The thought of it haunted me every day. I remember our conversation clearly.

“I can’t do it, Chris,” I told him. “I mean, I want to write it now while I can, while I can still think clearly. But if I do, it’ll be like I’ve tipped the scales somehow, like I’ve given up. I’ll never do that to him.”

There was a long pause until my dear friend said simply, “I know you. You’ll know when the time’s right. You’ll figure it out.”

You’ll figure it out.

Life had come full circle. I knew writing my father’s eulogy would be a transcending and sacred moment, but the feeling that I needed to do it at the proper time overwhelmed me. I believed strongly that my psyche would be plugged into the universe, into all powers unseen. I believed that somehow I’d have a hand in dealing his fate.

My father battled out from the hospital not once but twice. He battled out from hospice, for God’s sake. His war became something of myth to me. This beast of a disease – pancreatic cancer – tore at him with teeth and claws, and while my father staggered from his wounds, he never gave an inch. His sword still sliced the air. He suffered so much, yet fought with a will I never knew could exist in any human being.

I shared Father’s Day with him. We went to a restaurant; he sat across from me. By then chemotherapy was no longer viable. His body could not tolerate it. Inner fortitude was now his only medicine. An oxygen tank clanged against the table; my father constantly poked at the tubes in his nose. He didn’t eat much of his pasta. He didn’t eat much of anything. But there was one part of the meal he really enjoyed. I ordered my father an espresso. I made sure to have a double shot of black Sambuca added to it. My mother complained, but I didn’t listen, nor did I care. My dad was going to have his drink come hell or high water.

There was one thing about our lunch that I’ll never forget. It actually happened after I dropped my parents home. My wife commented that my dad’s shoulders had become so thin, so frail. The funny thing was that I never noticed. Not once.

All I saw was how much bigger he’d become in my eyes.

It was my last Father’s Day with him.

Near the end, his body systematically shut down. It started with his hands. The very hands he’d made his living from, the very hands he’d used to help so many people over the course of his life, now betrayed him. He couldn’t hold anything in his grip; cups would slip from his fingers. It was so difficult to watch. He could barely walk on his own. Each breath of air was a battle within itself. My father was admitted into the hospital a third time.

All through my father’s battle with pancreatic cancer, our rally cry had been never drop the ball. I said it to him all the time. I wrote it on his hospital room’s blackboard in bold letters; the nurses knew better than to erase it. I still had my New Orleans Saints jersey hanging in his house. I did everything in my power to let my father know that he wasn’t alone in his fight. I channeled so much of my own positive energy into him. But there was one odd thing: my father never spoke our rally cry. I was the one always telling him never drop the ball. He simply listened.

It was a Saturday, and I arrived at the hospital as usual. About a week before, my father lost his ability to speak. He said some words, but they were incoherent ramblings. He often stared at a distant point on the wall. I made my way to his room, but this time, something was different. Horribly different. As I walked the hallway, I heard someone crying out in pain. I lost all sense of time; reality blurred. Oh God oh God oh God, my mind raced, please, don’t let that be him. But I already knew.

I entered the room to find my father moaning in anguish. His hands clawed the sheets. My blood froze.

Then a miracle occurred.

My father saw me, pulled himself from the bed, clutched my arm and said, “I’m giving you the ball now. You run with it.”

It seemed a scene scripted for a movie and even then, I might have had trouble believing it. I’m sure most people would as well. But it did happen.

They were the last full sentences he would speak to me.

My father never dropped the ball. He never dropped the ball. In his mind, he was running for that touchdown. Somehow, even in the end, my father had the strength and awareness to hand me the ball.

He scored. He found a way.

He figured it out.

And I realized all at once he had passed me the torch…

I then prayed to the Lord to take my father. He had nothing left to prove; the man was a champion’s champion. But I still had one thing left to do. I recalled my dear friend’s words and four days later, in the dying light of dusk and summer, I wrote my father’s eulogy.

When I finished, I honored him with a shot of his favorite drink, Johnnie Walker Black. Then for the first time since he’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I sobbed.

I woke the next morning, Thursday June 28, 2007, and laid in bed for nearly an hour. I visualized my father in my mind’s eye. He was there, vivid, young. Whole. Healthy. As I’ve always known my father. As he will always be. He was walking the beach, gazing across the sea he so dearly loved. The sunshine was brilliant. My father was smiling. Yes, he’d scored that touchdown. And I know with every fiber of my being that I had made a connection with him that morning – I plugged into the universe as I knew I would – for not long thereafter, I received a call from the hospital that my father had passed.

I did not witness his death. On the contrary, I witnessed the miracle of his rebirth. For though his body faltered, his soul grew larger and larger.

I buried my father in my New Orleans Saints jersey. The very one I hung proudly in his house. My mother said in disbelief, “But he’s a Giants fan.”

I shook my head. “Yes, but he’s my Saint now.”

He filled that jersey like I never could. Talk about plugging into the universe: the Giants won the Super Bowl the year my father passed on. The following off-season, the Giants traded one of his favorite players, Jeremy Shockey, to the Saints. And as I’ve always held steadfast to my faith, the Saints won the Super Bowl the very next year. I flew to New Orleans to watch the game that weekend, proudly wearing a new authentic team jersey. As I celebrated our miracle championship amidst thousands of fellow Saints fans, I could feel my father watching me – and I knew he didn’t mind wearing my Saints jersey at all.

But what of my father’s identity, you may be wondering. What of the notion I believed he led some kind of superhero double life? Did I indeed ever learn the truth? I’d like to share with you my answer from a passage straight from my father’s eulogy:

“And so it came to my suspicions. After thirty-six years, I had to learn the truth. Two days after my father had given me the ball, I spent the morning in his room. I waited for the nurses to leave. I drew the curtain closed. And then, using the inner voice I always had, I looked under his bed…

There lay a dusty pair of boots. Across them, neatly folded, pitted with welding burn holes, a red cape. I took them gently from under the bed, and the sweet comforting smell of grease and diesel fuel and long, backbreaking hours of labor filled my nose. I hugged them close, leaned and kissed my father upon the head. Carefully, I placed them in a bag and hid them where not even my wife could find them. And they’ll stay hidden, until I have my own children, until I’m man enough to fill those boots and cape, until my kids know of the superhero their grandpa was, and until Superman can fly again.”

(Part Six: Dusk and Summer soon to come)

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Part 4: Lazarus

Part 3: Faith and Windows

Part 2: Phone Booths and Four Words

Part 1: Renovations; Shaken Foundations

November 1 – Purple Hope and Saints

Part 4: Lazarus

My dad loved the ocean. I think it was one of the few things, if not the only thing, that brought him true peace. He used to be an avid scuba diver and explored many of the shipwrecks littering the bottom of the sea around New Jersey and New York. He gave up his flippers, however, after a close call beneath the surface of the waves. My dad said he knew he’d been a lucky man and wasn’t about to tempt lady fate twice. But that didn’t keep him away entirely. He owned several boats over the course of his life and loved to fish, loved to sail. Loved the ballad the high seas strummed in his ear. He told me once, long before he’d gotten sick, that when he died he wanted to be cremated, his ashes spread at sea. It wasn’t something I took seriously.

How could I? I’d waited all my life for my dad to be there for me. As I grew older, we finally grew together. The childhood I’d been deprived of was finally achieved as an adult. Once we both left the family business, things blossomed. My dad became my buddy. Sure, we clashed heads at times, but friends often do. Strange as this may sound, I saw a lot of myself in my dad and by recognizing that, I learned a lot about myself as well. I realized we were very similar and not just in a father/son way. It opened doors for me I never knew were there. In many ways I guess an innocent child with wide-eyed belief still existed within me then – I believed my father would be a permanent fixture in my life forever, much the way I believed that Santa really ate those cookies I’d left for him, the way I believed the New Orleans Saints would win a Super Bowl one day. Much the way I believed that my father led a double life as a superhero.

Faith. It’s an intangible, invisible beacon that guides me. Nearly every decision I’ve made has been based on the blind notion it will lead me where I’m meant to be. My faith, at times, has wavered. My faith, at times, has crumbled. But always, I have followed.

I never lost my faith even when my father’s chemotherapy stopped working.

I never lost faith after he required a wheelchair for lengthy walks and his muscles began their slow descent into atrophy.

I never lost faith through his first stay in the hospital, as the days dragged into weeks and weeks, and the doctor’s only offering of solace was a meager there’s nothing left that can be done.

I never lost faith as his stomach swelled hideously with cancerous fluid, and he was forced to breathe with the assistance of a tube.

I never lost faith during his second stint in the hospital, when eventually the doctor released him into a hospice, near death and a forgotten man.

Never drop the ball, I’d say aloud to my dad.

Never drop the ball, I’d whisper into his ear.

And I certainly didn’t lose faith after my father figured it out as he always had in life. Figured it out and battled his way out of hospice to go home. To keep fighting.

“Your father told me that if it wasn’t for you, he’d be leaving hospice the only other way…” his neighbor and good friend Danny told me.

I refused to believe that. My father rose twice after all had buried him, given up on him, not because of me, but because of the man he was.

There are many aspects of my father’s suffering I’ve suppressed. I’ve slammed doors shut inside my mind, trapping the horrors within. I don’t wish for them to escape. Scotch and wine tempers them sufficiently, until the next time they shriek and pound their fists. I witnessed my father agonize slowly from the inside out. No man or woman or child should endure such a fate. Yet through the suffering, and beyond anything I can ever hope to articulate, I witnessed a transformation.

A rebirth.

I learned the truth behind everything I’d ever wondered about him.

His identity would be revealed…

(Part Five: A Saint Goes Marching In soon to come)

Part 3: Faith and Windows

Part 2: Phone Booths and Four Words

Part 1: Renovations; Shaken Foundations

November 1 – Purple Hope and Saints