When I was a kid, part of going to Shabbat morning services was getting a butterscotch from Mr. Nateman. He was our shul’s candy man. How lucky I have been in my adult life to have found a shul that also has a candy man – Mr. Weinstein. For a handshake and a ‘Shabbat Shalom,’ each kid (and a few adults) gets a Dum-Dum lollipop. I told Big Girl about saving the wrappers to send in for things, which is easier now with a website, and when she was in first grade she saved up goodness-knows-how-many wrappers and got herself a lunchbox which lasted a few years; not bad for a free lunchbox!
One of the many, many things I’m grateful for as Thanksgiving winds to a close (it’s after 11 p.m. now and most of my dishes are done) is the sweetness Michael Weinstein brings to Shabbat every week. He wrote this post a couple days ago on Facebook and I’m so glad he said I could share it. He was already giving back to his shul community for many years, but the energy he has put into working to defeat pancreatic cancer, personally and in his volunteer life, eclipses it all. He thinks he’s the lucky one beating the odds? I say we are the lucky ones to have him around.
I am sitting here trying to gather my thoughts about how my life changed so abruptly when I went into the Emergency Room 8 years ago on November 26, 2005. Two days earlier we had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family, made even more special as both of my daughters were home from college. Like most people I tend to overdo things, so I didn’t think it was so unusual to end up in the ER with diverticulosis. However, it became quite a shock when I was told that in addition I had a tumor on the pancreas.
When I was diagnosed I was told that my tumor was inoperable because of the location and the impingement of a major vein. After being treated for one year with various radiation and chemo treatments and visiting numerous cancer institutions it was determined that I was misdiagnosed as to the cell type. I then had to endure additional chemo treatments for the correct cell type. In October of 2007 I went to Houston Texas and had a bypass of the vein as well as the required resection of the tumor and associated “Whipple” surgery. After 12 hours of surgery I had a bad reaction to a blood transfusion and my lungs filled with fluid. I was clamped, packed in towels and wrapped in saran wrap and sent to the ICU for the night. After stabilizing me the surgery was completed the next day. I was then unconscious for 8 days and had a heart attack during that period of time. Even after I woke up it was not easy. I spent another 40 days in the hospital with various infections. Finally after a 50 day visit I was released and another 10 days later was able to leave Texas and return to New Jersey. I remained cancer free until my scans in August 2012 when some spots appeared on my liver and pancreas. The good news is that the treatment I am receiving is working and my latest scans have been clean.
I have been incredibly lucky as I continue to beat the statistics. There is no cure for pancreatic cancer and only 50% survive for 6 Months, 26% one year and only 6% survive for five years.
I would like to thank my wife Nancy, the love of my life, because I truly believe that without her in my corner I would not be here today. I also have two extraordinary daughters, Bethany and Marla, who never allow me to be anything but positive. Thanks to my brother Ron. I never could have made this journey without the four of you. Thanks to my sister in law Bonnie, and all of my family and friends (a special hooray for the bathrobe crowd) who have always been there for me. I love you all.
I would certainly be remiss if I did not thank all of the Doctors, nurses, aides orderlies volunteers that I have met along the way for being so skilled and caring at what they do. I must especially thank Dr. Douglas Evans, and the magic that he was able to perform in the operating room, and Drs. Radovich and Grann for all of their wisdom and guidance.
Finally, who would ever think that so many good things would come out of such a horrible moment? How else would I have become involved with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network? It is through this wonderful organization that I found a new passion inside me, speaking out against this horrible disease. I have made so many friends through this group of dedicated people. How else would I have met my soul brother Ralph, (Frick to my Frack), Roberta, Franco, and so many others survivors who fight every day to beat this disease? I just wish there were more of you out there. How else would I have met Nicole, Danielle, Todd, Debra, Stephanie and all of the New Jersey affiliate, and so many other incredible people from around the country who volunteer of their time to make a difference in the fight? Parents, spouses, siblings, children, cousins, friends etc. who all have a common thread, someone they care about facing the struggle for survival. How else would I have met Julie, Pam Yehuda, Megan, and all of the professional staff of the organization who are just as passionate? I love all of you in my “Pancan” family.
If you’d like to give Michael a Chanukah present, you can donate to Pancan here.