By Leslie Koplow
My Dad, Michael Koplow, was diagnosed in July 2010 with pancreatic cancer. They discovered that he had a large tumor in the head of the pancreas, which had not yet metastasized. In typical Dad fashion, he took a weekend to absorb and process the information on his own, before breaking the news to his wife and kids.
As a man of science, and a mechanical engineer by trade, Dad attacked his disease with his full arsenal of tools – his ability to tackle complex projects, his research skills, his scientific knowledge, his patience, his fortitude and stoicism, his charm, and his ability to just “get things done.” He knew from the beginning that the statistics were not in his favor, but he was determined to get the best treatment he could and extend his life as long as possible while maintaining the quality of life he required. Years of hockey, tennis and basketball and his wife’s excellent cooking had him in good shape for the battle. For 20 months, he was able to stave off most of the disease’s effects, undergoing a Whipple operation attempt, 17 rounds of Gemcitabine (chemotherapy) and 2 rounds of Cyberknife (radiation). During that time, he was able to accomplish many of his end-of-life goals with help from dear friends and family, by preparing he and his wife’s house for sale, buying and refinishing a new condominium apartment, visiting with all his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren near and far, and managing his treatment with the help of his medical team.
Dad was treated at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston. He kept meticulous notes of his symptoms and treatments, and charted his CA-19 levels against the tumor’s size. He never showed any self-pity; his biggest worry was how his death would affect his family. It was only in the last two months, when his digestion became severely compromised by the tumor’s growth that he experienced pain and real debilitation.
Once his options had run out for treatment, he quickly decided that he had no interest in lingering in an incapacitated state, and chose to withhold all measures that might extend his life. This is so in keeping with the man he was! He talked of his worry of “disrupting his children’s lives for too long” as we and his grandchildren all gathered in Boston to help in any way we could and be with him during this incredibly difficult time. He died a mere eight days later, very peacefully at home, surrounded by his children, Paul, Leslie, Hilarie, and Jeff, his dear wife Dottie, and his daughter-in-law Kathy.
He had an excellent relationship with his oncologist, Dr. Andrea Bullock, and her colleague, Dr. Jamie Potosek of Beth Israel Deaconess, and fully comprehended the challenges of pancreatic cancer. Unlike many other cancers for which treatments have been developed, pancreatic cancer remains inevitably fatal and difficult to treat effectively. We decided to create a You Can Help Fund Page in memory of dad because Dr. Bullock’s pancreatic cancer research was supported by the Hirshberg Foundation Seed Grant Program and thus Dad hoped that friends and family would contribute to this Fund in his memory and to help future patients diagnosed with this terrible disease.