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Meet Emily Eisenkramer on Behalf of the Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation in Ravenswood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Emily Eisenkramer.

Emily, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
You start off in your life never expecting yourself or anyone you love to pass away from cancer. You always think that it will not happen to me, my family or friends – and then one day, your world is turned upside down. My father was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in 2015 at the age of 62. My father was an amazing man and the very definition of a Southern gentleman. He was the kindest, most patient, well-mannered, family-oriented person who would allow me to call, text or email him 24/7 about absolutely anything. He was my rock through anything and everything. Being the Director of Medical Affairs at Rush University Medical Center, I had the advantage that I could immediately start to make phone calls and send out emails to our physicians to help navigate the road ahead. I was determined to save him and make him one of the few people in this world to survive with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

We, unfortunately, had a few things working against us: First, his mother and uncle both had pancreatic cancer and passed from it, and second, the BRCA2 mutation ran in our family. Prior to being diagnosed, my father had an appointment set up to be tested for the gene. Sadly we were too late to find out he was positive. The BRCA2 mutation is a gene mutation which is considered to be a tumor suppressor gene and is associated with individuals of Eastern European origin. I dragged my father around the state of Illinois, initially taking him to about seven or eight different oncologists and surgeons to determine where to begin and the best line of treatment for him. We started with chemotherapy, but once that stopped working I took him around the West Coast to four different hospitals to get other opinions on what next steps should be. I was relentless, contacting different institutions across the United States, Israel, and Germany.

Ultimately, I did not save my father; he passed away a month before my wedding. He was determined to make it as he had already picked out his tuxedo and our father-daughter dance song. My father was not ready to give up; he was 63 years old and had the rest of his life to live. Pancreatic cancer is absolutely horrible and no one should have to go through this. Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States with the lowest survival rate. Since my father was positive for the BRCA2 mutation, it meant I had to be tested as well. Some people do not believe in knowing their fate, however, I did not view this as an option. I like to be prepared rather than be surprised. Prior to receiving the results the test, the genetic counselor advised me that if I was positive, I should have a baby right away and recommended getting a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy. Scared was an understatement about how I was feeling at the time, considering I was not even married at this point. I luckily was not positive.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
There is no guidebook to tell you what the best course of treatment is or what doctor or institution you should go to for the best results of surviving. You can do lots of research and arm yourself with studies and information, however, everyone responds differently to treatment. Watching a loved one struggle through this journey and fight so hard to continue to live when the odds are against them is an extremely painful experience. There are not many sources of clinical trials or new drugs for pancreatic cancer. There is not an early detection test for pancreatic cancer. The struggle of not knowing where to turn, what to do, or how to help the one you love, is the hardest thing I had to deal with.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with the Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Being determined to save my father I was desperate for anyone who could help me or any outlets available. The Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation (a Chicago-based nonprofit with the mission of being a catalyst for the early detection and ultimate cure of pancreatic cancer) ended up being that outlet for me. Jim Rolfe, who started the foundation was instrumental in helping me navigate this difficult journey. Jim put me in contact with different physicians, surgeons, researchers, and geneticists throughout the county. The relationships he built with these individuals allowed me to call on them and ask for their opinion on what I should do or next steps and led me to other individuals in the field. Jim was always there to lend a helping hand and was very supportive of me and my family throughout. After losing my father, Jim put me in contact with grief counselors as well as other individuals who could relate to what I and my family had just been through. He came to our house to show his support and put my mother in contact with his own mother who had been through the same thing. The personal touches from the Rolfe Foundation were above and beyond anything that I would have expected.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Going forward, I will continue to support the Rolfe Foundation in every way that I can by being an ambassador for the cause as well as honoring my amazing father. I will continue to walk in the Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation’s DASH for Detection, which raises funds for early detection pancreatic cancer research. The DASH is traditionally attended by families who have lost loved ones to pancreatic cancer as well as those currently fighting the disease. The DASH for Detection is a great opportunity to raise awareness and to fight for an early detection test for pancreatic cancer, which is the third leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., with the lowest survival rate. While survival rates for other major cancers have significantly increased thanks to early detection research, basic research grants for pancreatic cancer are lacking. Funds raised during the DASH for Detection will help advance the development of early detection. The DASH for Detection is at 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 2, along with the beautiful lakefront at Montrose Harbor, and you can register at http://www.rolfefoundation.org/index.php/events/40.

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