On May 31, 2010, at 10:19 PM, "DISANTO, KEVIN" wrote:
It was an October day this past fall (2009), when my mom told me the news. Although there was a lot of noise in the house, I still remember how silent it felt, as I stood there in disbelief, and from the tears on her face, how scared my mother was. It was my mother's brother, Uncle Bruce, my Godfather and a person I have always idolized; he had cancer. My mom went on to tell me that the kind of cancer that Uncle Bruce has was a particularly insidious form of cancer - BILE DUCT CANCER, officially called cholangiocarcinoma (CO-LAN-GEE-OH-CAR-SIN-OH–MA). Role models are hard to come by and Uncle Bruce is my role model; a great guy and athlete. On that day in October, I had to face the fact that a person that I have idolized my entire life is having the battle of his life. One thing I know for certain, if there is someone who can beat this I know it will be my uncle.
What can I tell you about Bruce? How about the fact that Bruce was class president & a leader in high school, that he played three sports and was a WPIAL championship golfer? How about the fact that Uncle Bruce is really, really smart, especially in math and he went to an ivy-league school, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, graduating with a degree in finance?
Some of the other things that I could tell you about my Uncle Bruce are that he is extremely successful in business, and became successful at an early age, and that Uncle Bruce married his high school sweetheart and had two daughters, and gazillions of friends. Bruce is a hard worker, an honest man, and extremely ethical, encouraging me to always do the right thing. I think that I have always felt a special connection with my Uncle Bruce, as we were both the “third borns” in our families, and we always connected over sports.
To be honest, what I think that I would rather tell you about is the true heart of Uncle Bruce - that he is a very kind and generous man who gives tirelessly to his family and friends, giving of his time, talent, and resources. Bruce is loved by many, and it has never been more evident than now, as he fights this fight with amazing support. And one last quality of my Uncle Bruce's character is simply this: he is a fighter. All of his life, in spite of his successes and talents, Uncle Bruce had to fight through the fact that he had asthma. Then, when he was in high school, playing sports, there was a moment where they thought that Bruce had leukemia or Hodgkin’s disease. It turned out that he was ok, back then, but it was his fighter spirit that kept him going. It is this same fighting spirit that we all believe will help Uncle Bruce fight the cancer that he has now.
To be honest, it is hard for me to talk about a disease that is holding my uncle's life hostage. The original tumor was large, and was found accidentally. Uncle Bruce had gone in for a routine physical, and due to some minor bloodwork inconsistencies, Bruce's doctor sent him for a CAT scan. They found a 5.8 by 4.8 centimeter tumor on his liver, wrapped around the vena cava, the main artery going into the heart, making this tumor inoperable. Bile Duct Cancer is rare and considered lethal, and it was frightening for all of us to realize how little hope we should have all really felt. But that is not the nature of our family, especially Uncle Bruce. Uncle Bruce began chemo immediately, in order to knock this disease out as quickly as possible.
When my uncle found out that he had Bile Duct Cancer, everyone jumped on board to work to heal him. My mom bought books on cancer and sent the books to many family members. These books dealt with using nutrition and attitude to fight the disease. My Uncle Brian - who is my mom and Bruce's younger brother (an MIT grad) - began research on this type of cancer and began writing a "health plan" for Bruce. My Aunt Andrea, Bruce's wife, and her family made up T-Shirts that say "I believe...In Bruce" and wrist bands that say, "Bruce Strong." Prayers are being said, literally around the world. Candles have been lit for Bruce in West Minster Abbey in London, in the Vatican, and at the Wailing Wall in Israel. My mom and my Uncle Brian, along with my Grandma and Grandpa and many of my Aunt Andrea's family, took turns throughout 2010 spending days or weeks at Bruce's house in Pittsburgh, cooking for him, using the recipes that contain cancer-fighting ingredients.
During the six months following Bruce's diagnosis of cancer, we continued to receive great news. Between the prayers, the nutrition and the chemo, my Uncle Bruce's tumor was shrinking. The scan in April 2010 revealed that the tumor had shrunk to 1/3 the original size of the tumor, and Bruce's cancer "marker" in his blood had gone done from 134 to 4.2. Originally, all experts agreed that the tumor was inoperable, including the number 1 Bile Duct Cancer surgeon in the country. It became increasingly clear though that Bruce was at risk of not surviving the chemo treatments and that surgery was truly his only hope…and that was an option that was out of reach. After much research, Uncle Bruce was able to find only one doctor who stood alone and agreed to try to cut out as much of the tumor as possible, Dr. Marsh in Pittsburgh... Even though Dr. Marsh told Bruce that he couldn't get it all, Bruce knew that this was his only hope for surviving beyond this year.
Last Friday (May 21, 2010), a miracle of heroic proportions happened: Dr. Marsh operated on Uncle Bruce, 10 hours of grueling & intricate surgery, and was able to cut out (by spending at least 8 of the 10 hours gently scraping the tumor away from the veins) 100% of the tumor! My Uncle is cancer-free for the first time since this ordeal began 7 months ago.
My family and I are so very grateful for all of the miracles that have occurred since last October, beginning with the early and intuitive diagnosis by Dr. Gleason that gave Bruce that fighting chance (usually Bile Duct Cancer is found way too late, making the battle even more difficult)...thru Dr. Marks's chemo prescription that brought Bruce to a better "place" for surgery by shrinking the tumor to 1/3 of its original size...to Dr. Marsh, who held my uncle's life in his skillful & blessed hands, and gave it back.As my mother likes to say: "In one corner we have the evil opponent "cancer" - in the other corner we have "love, prayers, support, nutrition, great attitude & commitment, faith, excellent doctors, the right chemo, and an enormous dose of hope" - Cancer doesn't stand a chance against this army!!!!"
What I have learned from this is priceless, and the reason that I am sharing this with you today: Make sure that your “army” (faith, family, and friends, along with hope and commitment) is strong, and you will be prepared to fight against all odds.