Pancreatic cancer survivor raises
$300,000 to research the deadly disease.
Senior Copy Editor
spirit and entrepreneurial zest. The doctor
dropped a suggestion that the businesswom-
an form a foundation to fight the disease.
or nearly a year, Sheila Sky
So, while in the midst of recovering
Kasselman of West Bloomfield
from surgery, Kasselman created the Sky
knew something was very, very
Foundation (after her maiden name) and
wrong, but no doctor could say just what.
the wheels began turning.
When a svelte, fit, energetic 67-year-old
Her strategy is twofold. First, through
woman — planning to retire from her busi-
educational outreach, raise awareness of
ness as a financial planner — feels chroni-
pancreatic cancer among the public and
cally nauseated and listless and loses 20
pounds, there had to be a medical reason.
But her main focus is scientific research
"I had a CAT scan — nothing showed
— funding the development of a simple
up:' she said. "Nobody was really looking
blood test that will detect antibodies for
for pancreatic cancer."
pancreatic cancer and diagnose the dis-
Eventually, her bile duct (which con-
ease in its early, more treatable stage.
nects the gall bladder and pancreas) col-
In just a little more than three years, the
lapsed, leading to the discovery of a tumor Sky Foundation has raised $300,000 and
on her pancreas.
given birth to a research project run col-
"Cancer was a total shock because
laboratively by three Midtown
I was so innocent;' Kasselman said.
Detroit giants — the Karmanos
"I was this person who was healthy,
Cancer Institute, Wayne State
who exercised regularly and who ate
University School of Medicine
reasonably well. It never occurred to
and Henry Ford Health System.
me to be sick with cancer:'
The team consists of Karmanos
Kasselman was fortunate that
researchers Michael Tainsky, Ph.D.,
her tumor was discovered in an
and Stephen P. Dudas, Ph.D.;
early state — stage 1 — before
(now based in Sault Ste.
Dr. Mic hael
it spread to adjacent organs. She
M. Margaret French,
underwent simultaneous chemo-
R.N., a researcher at Henry Ford.
therapy and radiation and then a
The researchers have started
complicated surgery. The recovery from
collecting blood and tissue samples from
the surgery took a year.
hundreds of people who either have the
All things considered, she was one of the
cancer or are related to a patient who does.
lucky ones. Because pancreatic cancer is dif-
The lab, located at Karmanos, is studying
ficult to diagnose, tumors discovered in later
the samples, searching for an antibody
stages result in only a few months' survival.
indicating the immune system's response
The key, then, is diagnosis at an early
to a pancreatic tumor.
stage. That's where Kasselman's unique qual-
Tainsky, the Barbara and Fred Erb
ities as a businesswoman came into play.
endowed professor of cancer genetics at
Her gastroenterologist, Dr. Aim Silverman,
Karmanos and WSU, believes in a genetic
then at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, link in some cases of pancreatic cancer.
was well aware of her patient's fighting
Fighting Back on page 30
Sheila Sky Kasselman
accepting the Patricia
Milner Sachs Heart of
Timothy Haun ert
a Survivor award.
Celebrating Cancer Survivors
Every year, the Karmanos Cancer
Institute and Survivorship University
give the Patricia Milner Sachs Heart
of a Survivor Award to a cancer sur-
vivor who exemplifies compassion and
devotion in helping others with cancer.
The award is named after Karmanos
social worker Pat Sachs, who lost
her 11-year battle
with melanoma in
2006. Sachs' legacy
includes her role
as founding dean
University, a lec-
ture program at
Karmanos geared to
help educate those
with cancer and their families.
In addition to this year's awardee
Sheila Sky Kasselman, 10 other can-
cer survivors received recognition
as nominees at the ceremony, and
Pink Fund founder Molly MacDonald
was keynote speaker. Alicia Smith of
Channel 7 News was the host.
Survivorship University has sched-
uled a lecture on menopause and
cancer treatment at 6-7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 3, at Karmanos'
Weisberg Center, 31995 Northwestern
Hwy., Farmington Hills, and Thursday,
Nov.10, at Gilda's Club, 3517
Rochester Road Royal Oak.
To register, call (800) 527-6266 or
visit www.karmanos.org .
— David Sachs
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October 27 s 2011