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September 09, 1994 - Image 30

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-09-09

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• vo
Rectatmlng Life At


Larry Wasserman
and his wife, Bobbi,
face the future



n a fatal tug of war, the black-
robed angel of death dragged
Larry Wasserman toward the
abyss. On the brink of eternal
darkness, he was encircled by
friends and family. "We're here
to help," they said.
Then Mr. Wasserman woke
Shaking himself to conscious-
ness, Mr. Wasserman realized
his dangerously high fever — a
symptom of hairy cell leukemia
— had broken. That dream was
a turning point in his life.
"I beat death at that moment,"
he says. "And I decided that
someday I was going to share
that vision."
Six years later, Mr. Wasser-
man's video, You're Not None, is
set to premier on public access
television, and as a video at Sinai
Hospital. The show, chronicling
Mr. Wasserman's illness, fea-

tures interviews with doc-
tors, nurses and patients.
Each shares different
methods of coping with
serious illness.
Most important to Mr.
Wasserman is the video's
affirmation of optimism,
counseling and a support
system of friends and
Through the six years
of his first battle with
hairy cell leukemia —
and a relapse in August
1991 — Mr. Wasser-
man focused on achiev-
ing his goal.
"I would work for a
day and then rest for
two if I had to," he says.
Mr. Wasserman was
a novice when he first
embarked on You're
Not Alone. He began
studying video pro-
duction and mastered
the skill by practicing
on community pro-
jects. He videotaped
West Bloomfield civic
meetings, with the
footage later broad-
cast on public access
Shortly over a year ago, Mr.
Wasserman approached Linda
Diaz, the coordinator of Sinai
Hospital's cancer counseling pro-
gram. He detailed the concept for
You're Not Alone, and she as-
sisted him by setting up inter-
views with people with illnesses.
"Everyone who becomes sick
faces their own unique circum-
stances," Mr. Wasserman says.
"But there are common denom-
inators. You're Not Alone shows
that counseling provides an op-
portunity for people to share sim-
ilar stories."
In his own day-to-day strug-
gle, Mr. Wasserman kept a jour-
"I try to achieve something
each day, no matter how small,"
he says. "After I was diagnosed
in November 1987, the doctor
told me that I'd have a short pe-
riod of productive time left before
becoming too weak. I spent that

time accessing as much infor-
mation as I could about the dis-
ease, preparing myself for what
was ahead."
Mr. Wasserman's "why me?"
attitude changed when he dis-
covered that the rare blood can-
cer from which he suffered
predominantly affects Jewish
males nearing 50. The mystery
of his illness became a bit more
understandable, but the frus-
trations continued.
Through it all, Mr. Wasser-
man kept setting goals for him-
"When I was bedridden, all I
could accomplish was dragging
myself to the shower," he recalls.
"But it was still something."
His journal provided an op-
portunity to prepare for upcom-
ing events, even something as
small as a doctor's appointment.
"You have to focus ahead and
convince yourself that you have
a future," he explains. "That's
what my video emphasizes. No
matter how long or how short,
you have a future."
Mr. Wasserman's reasoning is
shared by Oak Park resident Re-
becca Pearlman.
"If you really want to over-
come depression, you have to
step outside of yourself and con-
centrate on something else," says
Ms. Pearlman, who was diag-
nosed with multiple sclerosis in
1978. "I don't like things to be
one-sided. When that happens,
you become too involved with
yourself Problems turn into dead
ends instead of challenges."
Long before Ms. Pearlman
showed symptoms of MS, she
faced other problems with simi-
lar determination. When her son
was diagnosed with attention
deficit disorder (ADD) in 1969,
Ms. Pearlman assailed the dis-
ease with a combination of re-
search, creativity and support.
"At first, I had no idea what to
do ... but I knew I had to find
ideas. Every problem may not
have a solution, but if you look
hard enough, you'll find a few an-
swers," she says.
When her son was still a child,
specialists were unaware of
ADD's complexities. Ms. Pearl-
man had no choice but to re-
search the disorder on her own.
"When you're diagnosed with

a problem that you don't com-
pletely understand and you're
afraid, what can you do?" Ms.
Pearlman asks. "You can stop in
your tracks or you can look for
answers. It's all dependent on at-
Ms. Pearlman launched an ag-
gressive tutoring program and
support system for her son. She
took notes on his progress and
discovered a pattern in her son's
behavior. Over the next 12 years,
she researched the disorder and
transformed her notes into a
book titled Guidelines In the
Management Of ADD.
Her son later overcame ADD,
earned an MBA from Wayne
State University and now works
as an administrator at a reha-
bilitation clinic.
It was nine years later, in
1978, that Ms. Pearlman relied
once again on sheer fortitude.
"I was scared when I was told
that I had MS," she recalls. "I
was advised by my doctors to
keep it a secret. That made it
even harder to live with."
Ms. Pearlman surrounded
herself with other MS sufferers.
But many, who shared her grief,
imparted terrifying stories and
negativity. Finally, she decided
that she'd had enough.
"I'm not accountable for a lot
of things," Ms. Pearlman says.
"But I am responsible for myself
and how I choose to think of my-
self. I decided to stay away from
negative people ... and then, sud-
denly, everything started chang-
ing. Things got better."
In 1980, Ms. Pearlman began
writing her second book — this
one about MS. She plans on pub-
lishing it in the near future. Each
individual responds to the dis-
order differently, she acknowl-
edges, while maintaining that a
positive outlook is essential for
anyone to begin the healing
Initially, however, prospects
of living with MS devastated Ms.
Pearlman, for whom gymnastics,
dancing and swimming had been
regular diversions.
"Immobility is one of the
biggest challenges," she says. "I
was always a 'doer.' It's frus-
trating now to be dependent on
As the MS set in, Ms. Pearl-

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