In memory of Seneca White Ottey
My father, Seneca White Ottey, was diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer in August 2010 and given 9-12 months to live. What made it so surprising was that he was very healthy; his only symptoms were occasional hiccupping and burping after eating. At his annual exam, he mentioned these symptoms to his physician, who then ordered an endoscopy. The test located a 3 cm tumor on his lower esophagus and lymph node involvement.
Princeton Radiology in NJ and Fox Chase Cancer Center in PA coordinated care, which consisted of 25 radiation treatments, which he tolerated very well, followed by chemotherapy (both infusion and oral tablets) from January to May 13th, 2011. He experienced neuropathy in his hands and feet, as well as low white blood cell counts, as side effects of the chemo drugs. In June 2011, test results showed the tumor had shrunk to about 2 cm and there was no cancer in any other areas! The treatments were working and we were all very hopeful. Seneca was considering surgery to remove what was left of the tumor.
In July we celebrated Seneca’s 60th birthday with a surprise party. He looked and felt great, and was very optimistic about the future. In mid-August, following an unrelated hernia-repair surgery (and in the middle of Hurricane Irene no less!), he experienced severe head pain and was brought to Robert Wood Johnson Memorial Hospital. There he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer metastases to the brain (which doctors said developed within just a few weeks time), fell in to a coma, and never recovered. On September 1st, just over his 12 month prognosis, he passed away surrounded by his family.
I often wonder, ‘What if he had reported his symptoms earlier?’, ‘Did we do enough to help him?’, ‘Is there even treatment available for cases like his?’. I do not have many answers, but I do know this: my father fought incredibly hard, without complaining or being bitter, and amazingly kept a positive attitude. I like to think that he passed away unaware of the brain metastases, believing fully that he was fighting and beating his cancer. It frustrated him that so little is known about esophageal cancer and so little is being done to bring awareness or find a cure.
That’s where I’m stepping in. I want to finish the battle that he started. My dad will never get to meet his grandchildren, walk his other daughter down the aisle, or see his son excel in his career. Let’s prevent other patients from that same fate. I joined forces with Esophageal Cancer Education Foundation (ECEF) in 2012 and organized a benefit concert that raised over $11,000.
I am currently organizing a Casino Night Fundraiser that will be held July 7, 2018 at the UNCW Burney Center from 6-11pm. This red carpet event will be a night of casino play with various gaming tables, heavy hors d’oeuvres, drinks, silent auction, raffle prizes, 50/50, and a performance by Tom Gossin, former frontman of the award-winning band Gloriana. Grand prize is a trip to Las Vegas!!! Tickets are now on sale, $75 each or 2/$125.
Please consider becoming an official event sponsor, purchasing event tickets, or for those of you unable to attend, please make a tax-deductible donation in my father’s memory and for all those currently fighting or who have lost their battle. With your support, I hope to more than double the first funds raised in 2012, with a goal this time of raising $25,000. These funds will go to ECEF’s grants, currently including $100,000 for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center research projects, which ultimately will help those fighting their own battle.
Thank you, wholeheartedly, for supporting this cause that means so much to me.
Michelle Urban, PharmD, RPh
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Total Donations Raised: $ 36,357.00
The Foundation received its 501(c) (3) IRS designation as a charitable organization and therefore making the donations that it receives fully tax deductible to the donor.