Are there really any coincidences in life? Here is one that I feel compelled to write about. Last week, Richard (my husband) and I went to a fundraiser in San Francisco. It was for Maccabi USA which is a non-profit organization “that endeavors, through sports, to perpetuate and preserve the America Jewish Community by encouraging Jewish pride, strengthening Jewish bonds and by creating a heightened awareness of Israel and Jewish identity.” Our son was a member of the 2009 USA team and competed in Israel in the triathlon and ½ marathon. Richard and I felt a slight obligation to go to support the cause. In addition, I am a fanatical swimmer, and Mark Spitz, Jason Lezak and Lenny Krayzelburg were going to be there and, quite frankly, I wanted to meet them! So we went, but somewhat unenthusiastically. Mostly because it meant getting dressed up for a dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel in the city…and, as you might imagine, I had nothing to wear! In addition, we were certain that we would not know anyone there. Also, it was on a Tuesday night, and Richard and I are usually asleep by 10 so that we can wake up early to swim at 6:00 AM. Therefore, our reluctance.
But, off we went. I found something in my closet to wear that was passable, not quite high fashion enough for SF, and clearly, my shoes were all wrong, but I’m quite sure no one noticed! We had paid a hefty price for the tickets, so at the very least we figured we would eat a good dinner at a fancy SF hotel! We were seated at Table 21 – way in the back, with a lovely group of strangers, all bonded together by our love of sports, Israel and things Jewish.
Anyway, that is not the point of my story, and, as I said, I do have an unbelievable story to tell. First let me begin by giving you some background information. Well, some numbers actually. This will make my story even that much more mind-boggling! According to an article in the NYT about Steve Jobs, “neuroendocrine tumors account for only about 3 percent of the 44,000 cases of pancreatic cancer each year in the U.S.” I found some conflicting numbers on the incidence of neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer – one resource reported that per 1, 000 000, the crude annual incidence was 1.8 in females and 2.6 in males, another source says it is 3.2 cases/1,000,000!
Anyway, whatever the actual numbers are, whatever the actual incidence rate of NE pancreatic cancer might be, we do know that it is a rare tumor. So much so, that it should be unlikely to meet someone randomly, with the same disease. (Although for full disclosure, in addition to Steve Jobs (whom I did not know personally), I do know 3 other people who have had this!) But, nonetheless, we have established that it is definitely RARE! And, the chance of meeting someone else with this is SLIM. But, let me go on with my story.
So, there we were at the “Legends of the Maccabiah Gala Dinner”, at the Four Seasons Hotel in SF, seated at Table 21, next to the loveliest man I’ll call Dr. J., an anesthesiologist. Why he was there, I’m not totally sure, but I liked him immediately because at one point early in our conversation he guessed my age to be way younger than I actually am. I told him that I loved him, right off the bat. There is something about someone who thinks you look much younger than you are that makes you just want to hug them. (That comes a little later!) Anyway, there we were, chatting about sports and Jews and families and work….when it somehow came out that I was a cancer survivor. THEN….the conversation went like this:
Me: I’m a cancer survivor
Dr. J.: I’m a cancer survivor too.
Me: What kind did you have?
Dr. J.: Pancreas
Me: Me too!
Dr. J.: But mine was neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer
Me: So was mine!
Me: Where were you treated?
Dr. J.: Stanford.
Me: Me too!
Dr. J.: Who was your doctor?
Me: Dr. Norton.
Me: Me too…..
OK….now for the spooky part…..Me: When were you there?
Dr. J.: July and August 2009
Me: Me too!
OK…so what are the chances? We were both at Stanford Hospital in August of 2009. We had very similar surgeries, the same surgeon, and were on the same floor. Dr. J. was sitting right next to us…. in a crowded room with about 250 people….at a fundraiser we almost didn’t go to….what are the chances?
So, we hugged, exchanged emails and phone numbers and are planning to get together soon in Berkeley. And, I did get to meet Mark Spitz, Jason Lezak and Lenny Krayzelburg. I’d say the evening was totally “meant to be”. In yiddish....it was bashert!!