Written July 25, 2014
“I’d worked out in a gym since I was 14 years old”, says Avi. “The first gym was Ottmer’s Iron Den in Lakewood, New Jersey and I remember it like it was yesterday”, a broad smile breaks out across his face. Avi, the father of three boys (ages eleven, nine and four) is a broad shouldered man of 44 years and you can see all those years of lifting has shaped his body and mind. He remains thankful that he continued working out because in the summer of 2012, while lying face down on a bench, he felt some discomfort in his right breast. “I couldn’t believe there was something there”, Avi says. “Men get breast cancer?”
After a trip to his doctor and then visiting with a breast oncologist, he had a mammogram and core biopsy. A PeT scan confirmed the tumor and indicated that it had already metastasized to his left shoulder, sternum and lungs. Getting the news he had stage 4 breast cancer was monumental, but that didn’t really seem to shake Avi. “My family was so supportive, especially during those first few months, it bolstered my confidence”, he says. “My boss, the Director of Operations, the CIO and my co-workers were amazingly supportive. Sitting down and telling them my diagnosis was one of the most difficult things I had to do in my life.” Avi was a Senior Project Manager for a top U.S. Medical School and he says he plans to go back to work as soon as the cancer in his body is destroyed. “I miss project management. It really provided me challenging problem solving and leadership opportunities.”
Six months of hormone therapy failed and he began a chemotherapy clinical trial in March 2013. He remains in the study after 15 months. When asked how long he has to be in treatment Avi will tell you “as long as it takes.”
“He is so strong”, says Avi’s mom who accompanies him every week to chemo. “Everyone around him is bolstered by his strength.” “He’s been blogging since diagnosis and he calls his blog ‘The Mountain’. He describes his treatment as climbing a mountain. He writes, ‘You just have to put your head down and keep putting one foot in front of the other.’” Through the blog his previous co-workers and distant family are also gaining strength. One of his previous co-workers says “When you stop to think of your personal challenges you realize anything is surmountable after witnessing Avi’s strength and optimism.”
“I heard about Lazarex from my hospital Coordinator of Psychosocial Support Services. I needed help with the logistical and financial problems facing me. Living in Brooklyn, New York with my wife and youngest son and being treated in Hackensack, New Jersey presented weekly commutation expenses that challenged my new limited budget on disability. Lazarex was there to help. They are my bridge connecting where I live to where I am treated and more.”
Three out of every four weeks, after sending his four year old off to school, Avi heads to the hospital. He gets home after 10pm at night. “It’s a long day, but it goes fast. I make the best of it.” He tells his four year old that he will see his daddy in the morning and that he is going to the hospital today to fight the stupid cancer. “Stupid cancer”, says the four year old. “He can’t possibly understand cancer or what I am going through, but he can understand positivity, that in life you sometimes just have to do things, like it or not.” You see a sparkle in Avi’s eye as he smiles.