A Medical Journey

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By Howard Freedlander

Col’67 and PAR’02

I began an unplanned medical journey more than three months ago. Consequently, I joined a men’s club, to which I had no intention of applying.

On April 30, I received a diagnosis of prostate cancer. By June 16, I underwent robotic-assisted surgery to remove my prostate. I am recovering well and quickly, with no surprises or complications.

On June 24, I learned from my Johns Hopkins Hospital doctor that the surgery successfully extracted all the cancer. I am cancer-free.

I thought long and hard about whether to share this information on a public stage like Frankly Penn. I’m doing so because fortunately I suffered a form of cancer more common than I ever knew among men—and considered mostly curable.

My description so far betrays none of the fear and anxiety I felt—and obsessed about on a daily basis—beginning with the brief phone conversation with an Annapolis urologist, who told me the awful truth. The difficulty continued as I told family members and close friends. Even as I sat two months ago early in the hectic pre-operation area, I worried about life after major surgery.

Cancer no longer was someone else’s problem.

As if studying for final exams 48 years ago at Penn, I read exhaustively about prostate cancer. I spoke with survivors, not only in Talbot County, Maryland, where I live, but throughout the country. I realized the membership of this club was larger than I ever imagined. While comforted to some extent by the survival rate, at least measured anecdotally, I could think of nothing else.

Peace of mind was elusive.

I learned that fighting cancer—or any other life-threatening disease—generates a level of self-absorption and self-centerness that I typically abhor. I talked of little else. I felt distracted, prone to mistakes. The metaphor, “emotional roller coaster,” comes to mind.

And I found out, as do others, I’m sure, the grace and comfort willingly offered by family and friends.

Despite the option of radiation, I chose surgery because it suited me personally; I simply wanted to rid myself of cancer as quickly and effectively as I could. Through a referral from a doctor in my hometown of Easton, MD, I found a physician at the renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital, well-experienced and well-respected in conducting robotic-assisted surgery. He not only was highly skilled, but just as importantly, a person with a nice human touch and incredible responsiveness to my questions and concerns.

I alluded to the inestimable value of support, both professional and friend-and family-based. You expect the medical professionals to respond with expertise and compassion, and that generally happened. You lean on your family, and again I was the beneficiary of tremendous care and concern. My wife Liz was a great nurse and wonderful friend.

Everyone deals differently with personal calamity. I like to do personal research, using both the written and spoken word. And so I spoke with people to whom friends referred me, people whom I did not know, such as an attorney in Chicago and a real estate developer in Washington, DC; they unselfishly spent time explaining their experience with prostate cancer. I spoke with a Penn classmate, whose name I saw as a donor to the Brady Urological Institute at Hopkins. Also, I constantly sought counsel and comfort from an Easton friend who had undergone prostate surgery in 1999 at Hopkins.

So, what have I have done since my wrenching medical odyssey ended?

I have found other subjects of conversation that exclude personal medical problems. I will continue retirement activities that have no connection to the medical system. Life as a patient is grueling.

I have reached out to others, including a friend in Washington State, trying to help him navigate treatment options for prostate cancer. He seems disinclined to take the surgery route.

And, finally, I will remain ever thankful for a dose of good luck, renewal of good health and the ability to continue praying for those who endure life-threatening medical situations far more complex than early-detected prostate cancer.

Life looks brighter now. It’s time to move on. It’s time to laugh again.

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Penn Alumni Travel: California National Parks, June 2015

Author: Lucy Fowler Williams, Associate Curator/Sabloff Keeper, American Collections, Penn Museum

In June I had the amazing opportunity to participate on a Penn Alumni Travel tour to the northern California National Parks including Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia.  We saw and learned so much that, among other things, the trip altered my thoughts about guided tours. If you want real R&R, expert insight into nature, history, and the cultural aspects of what you are seeing, and to cover a lot of ground getting to amazing places, this kind of trip is for you.

Yosemite Trees

Yosemite Trees

The group included two tour guides and 42! university alumni representing Penn, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Perdue, the University of Texas, Columbia, and Boston University. After our first happy-hour we were all old friends, and it stayed that way for the full nine days! We started out in San Francisco, but beat feet to Sonoma Valley’s wine country where we toured the Kunde Family Winery, a five-generation vineyard. After sampling the Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, AND the Cabernet, we entered the underground wine caves and sipped from an unfinished barrel of red while listening to legends of the family business. Though my personal preferences tend toward gin, tequila, or aqvavit, this visit definitely rekindled my interest in California wines.  Just yesterday I found Kunde Estate wines in the Pennsylvania liquor store.

From Sonoma we headed east into the Sierra Nevada, and eventually climbed 6,225 feet to Lake Tahoe, the highest and largest alpine lake in the United States.   I’ve wanted to see Tahoe for a long time and in fact it is what inspired me to sign onto the trip.  Though there in the wrong season, and without my skies, I was not disappointed. An incredible blue, Tahoe is 21 miles long and an impressive 1,600 feet deep, surrounded by snow-covered peaks.

Lake Tahoe 2

Lake Tahoe

As a specialist in Native American material culture, it was my pleasure to fill the group in on the fact that while a vacation retreat and tourist destination for many, Lake Tahoe is also the spiritual center and place of origin of the Washoe Indian people, and remains as such today. Through my lectures, I introduced the weaving traditions of Washoe and northern California Indian tribes, some of the finest basketry in the world.  In the late 1800s, weavers skillfully adapted their work to meet the demands of the burgeoning tourist industry in California.  The American Craftsman Movement (1895-1920) celebrated handmade Indian weaving and encouraged a collecting obsession of Indian art across the country.  This was also the Golden Age of Museums, and it is no surprise that the Penn Museum houses exceptional California baskets, of which I shared many examples.  The tragic irony of saving Indian art while killing off Indian people was not lost on my audience.  Later in the trip I introduced NAGPRA and the repatriation movement with a special focus on issues important to California tribes today.

A Mono Lake Paiute basket at the Yosemite Museum

A Mono Lake Paiute basket at the Yosemite Museum

From Tahoe we traveled east over the Sierras and into Nevada’s Mono and Paiute Indian country, back into California, past Mono Lake (one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen), and entered Yosemite National Park from the east.   We spent two days in Yosemite, taking in all of the sites along the Valley floor (Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, the Ahwhannee Hotel named after the Chief of the tribe that inhabited the Valley), and had free time for hiking on ones own or for group tours. My son took off on the 7 mile hike to Nevada Falls, and I spent the afternoon with Barbara Beroza, the Curator of the Yosemite Museum, looking behind the scenes at Washoe, Paiute, and Miwok Indian baskets, and with Phil Johnson, a Miwok/Paiute interpreter in the gallery. Phil showed me a clever and rarely collected woodpecker trap, a long and skinny twinned basket that is tied to a tree over a hole where the ubiquitous woodpeckers are nesting!

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley

From Yosemite we spent two more gorgeous days in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Sequoia is less travelled and incredibly vast and wild. In addition to much welcomed snow and rain, we saw an abundance of woodpeckers and blue Steller’s Jays, and a total of seven black bears eating grass in open meadows.

But the highlight of the trip was the magnificent Giant Sequoia trees, Sequoiadendron giganteum, the world’s largest living trees that are well protected and cared for in these parks. The General Sherman and General Grant trees standing 275 and 268 feet tall, respectively, were massive and incredibly impressive. While taking them in, I revisited John Muir’s writings and the early history and struggle to secure these incredible parks.  I was continually awed by the grandeur of the woods and reminded of the difference a single person’s actions can make.  And it was a pleasure to be traveling with so many like-minded enthusiasts of nature and of our National Parks.

Sherman Tree

Sherman Tree

With reluctance, we descended west from the cool, quiet, and lush seclusion of Sequoia and across the northern edge of the Central Valley, aka “the Salad bowl.” Impressively, this region grows a staggering one half of the produce in the United States! and we passed mile after mile of thriving walnut, pistachio, almond, peach, pear, nectarine, plum, cherry, and date trees, acres of lettuce, miles of artichokes, and on and on.  After a private tour and elegant dinner at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we ended our trip at Carmel By the Sea with a tour of the still active Carmel Mission Church, established by Spanish Jesuits in 1793.

The trip gave me the opportunity to experience some of the United State’s most incredible natural beauty, where some of Penn Museum’s California collections were made and used, and time to reflect on the importance of our mission to steward and share those collections broadly.

[Interested in traveling with Penn Alumni Travel? Visit our 2016 schedule here. We will be visiting the Southwest National Parks in September 2016.]

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Penn Club of DC at the Citi Open

Tennis Shot

Another summer in DC and another great Citi Open tennis tournament is just around the corner.  This year’s field is the best in years with many of tennis’ top-ranked players coming to town.  And thanks to the Penn Club of DC, Penn alumni have enjoyed a “Penn Night” at the tournament each and every summer for over 20 years.  Why do I like to take part in this event?  Simply put, the Citi Open experience is a tennis Wonderland.  When not in your seat watching tennis with Penn friends, you can walk around the festival grounds to visit the sponsor tents, spot the tennis stars (and perhaps get their autographs), check out tennis merchandise, enter free raffles, and take advantage of numerous food and drink options (including access to the air-conditioned Courtside Club – only with the Penn Club ticket).  Holding true to the Tennis Center founders’ wishes, a portion of the proceeds from the Citi Open benefits the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation (WTEF). The WTEF seeks to improve the life prospects for underprivileged children of Washington, DC.  Through its education and athletic programs, tens of thousands of DC’s at-risk children have been nurtured through the support of WTEF’s caring patrons, staff and volunteers.  I look forward to this year’s gathering of Penn alum and friends at the Citi Open on Friday evening, August 7th.  For more information and our group rate tickets, see https://squareup.com/market/penn-club-of-dc/citi-open.

For more information, Click here.

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Penn Serves LA Spruces Up a New Charter School

By Leanne Pyott Huebner, W’90

Valiente College Preparatory Charter School

Five Large Classrooms, Five Hours, and Twenty Volunteers.  That’s what the Penn Serves team had to work with this past weekend to prepare the classrooms of Valiente College Prep Charter School, in South Gate, California.  This newly-chartered early-start middle school will open its doors in two months time to approximately 140 4th and 5th graders.  Every dollar counts for new schools prompting Board Chair Leanne Huebner, W’90, to call in the Penn Serves LA volunteers to lend some much-needed manpower on this June morning.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have the help prepping Valiente, as our teachers are so eager to prep classrooms for opening day,” shares Huebner.  “This work saved our school thousands of dollars we can now use towards other critical school needs!”

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A great team of Penn alumni were out in force to paint the new charter school

 

Valiente College Prep Charter School is the culmination of nearly two years of prep work which started with school founder Jacob Wertz’s vision to create a high-performing charter middle school for Southeast Los Angeles.  After completing a yearlong fellowship with non-profit Building Excellent Schools, Jacob and his founding team embarked on the task of launching Valiente, utilizing best practices from dozens of successful charter schools across the U.S.

“We are creating a high-expectations community of leaders and learners preparing our students for great universities like Penn,” shares Wertz.  Valiente serves one of the most overpopulated zip codes in the U.S. where today only 7% of its residents hold college degrees.  The team is on a mission to move that needle higher as it serves approximately 95% students with free- and reduced-lunch eligibility status, often used as high poverty indicator.

“It was great to come out today and help this school get ready for day one,” shared Jennifer Bunn, W’06, C’06, now an attorney in Newport Beach. “After Penn, I taught for four years, two through Teach for America so I know how important for charter schools to access great volunteer talent whenever possible.”

Interested in getting involved at Valiente College Prep?  Please contact Jacob at jwertz@valientecollegeprep.org to learn more.

Penn Serves LA’s next event will be on Saturday, July 18th, when the volunteers will be harvesting, weeding, pruning, and planting a Heroes’ Garden at the Veteran’s Administration in West LA.  Click here to RSVP.

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Dunn Edwards, headquartered nearby the school, generously donated paint and some supplies – it came in handy.

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Great teamwork with Penn alumni working alongside school parents.

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Paul and Nicole tackle the two-tone windows.

 

Penn Serves LA has many terrific projects for all ages on the calendar for the coming months. Join us, meet new Penn people, demonstrate what service means to your kids and friends, help us Quakers make a little bit of difference in our complex city!

Upcoming Penn Serves LA events:

  • Saturday, July 18, 2015 – Harvesting a Garden for Veterans – RSVP
  • Saturday, September 12, 2015 – Reading to Kids – Details coming soon
  • Sunday, December 6, 2015 – Midnight Mission: Serving Meals to the Homeless – Details coming soon

If you have an established nonprofit that you would like us to consider for future events or announcements, please let us know. We are looking for new nonprofits to serve in meaningful ways.

Questions? Reach us at pennserves@gmail.com.

Find us on the web, follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page!

Read about our previous events:

June, 2015 – Penn Serves LA Has the Giving Spirit

August, 2014 – Penn Serves LA Strikes Again: This Time with Paint!

December, 2013 – Holidays are a Time for Giving

November, 2013 – Sending Holiday Warmth to our Troops

August and September, 2013 – Serving the Environment and LA Leadership Academy

May, 2013 – One on One Outreach

March, 2013 – Habitat for Humanity

January, 2013 – Inner City Arts

September, 2012 – The Midnight Mission

June, 2012 – Turning Point Shelter

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Penn Serves LA has The Giving Spirit

By Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16

Photos by Kiera Reilly, C’93

Wonderful Penn Serves LA volunteers joined in a fantastic effort on May 30th to provide a bit of summer relief for some of the 82,000 people in our city who are homeless on any given night. Founded in 1998, The Giving Spirit has raised over $2 million through small donations and served over 35,000 homeless. Twice a year this all-volunteer non-profit, the largest in the city, organizes the filling of backpacks and duffle bags with essential items (canned and fresh food, clean socks and hats, toiletries, etc. plus lists of available services) to help our friends on the street to survive and enjoy a bit of comfort during the hottest and coldest points in the year.

Volunteers of all ages helped to set up the assembly line, then fill the backpacks.

Volunteers of all ages helped to set up the assembly line, then fill the backpacks.

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Volunteers at the beginning of the assembly line to fill the backpacks.

But in addition to handing out these critical supplies, The Giving Spirit is unique in its approach:  the organization’s leaders know they cannot cure homelessness, but when volunteers hand bags full of help, and maybe hope, to homeless people, they also look them in the eyes, engage them when feasible and let these disenfranchised people know that someone is thinking about them. The formula is a moving one, and through a short, televised video our Penn Serves LA volunteers received a glimpse into its effectiveness.

Jane Gutman introduces The Giving Spirit's founder and Chairman Tom Bagamane to the Penn Serves LA group.

Jane Gutman introduces The Giving Spirit’s founder and Chairman Tom Bagamane to the Penn Serves LA group.

Tom talks to the group about the founding of The Giving Spirit and the work that they do to help the homeless in Los Angeles.

Tom talks to the group about the founding of The Giving Spirit and the work that they do to help the homeless in Los Angeles.

Penn Serves' Jeff Weston, C'05, helps load the filled backpacks into vans for distribution.

Penn Serves’ Jeff Weston, C’05, helps load the filled backpacks into vans for distribution.

One truck filled with backpacks ready to be distributed.

One truck filled with backpacks ready to be distributed.

Penn Serves volunteers at The Giving Spirit.

Penn Serves volunteers at The Giving Spirit.

 

Penn Serves LA has many terrific projects for all ages on the calendar for the coming months, including a day of painting on June 13th at Valiente College Preparatory Charter School, a brand new school for underserved kids opening this fall. Join us this Saturday – RSVP here.

 Join us, meet new Penn people, demonstrate what service means to your kids and friends, help us Quakers make a little bit of difference in our complex city!

Upcoming Penn Serves LA events:

  • Saturday, June 13, 2015 – Help paint Valiente College Preparatory Charter School – RSVP
  • Saturday, July 18, 2015 – Harvesting a Garden for Veterans – RSVP
  • Saturday, September 12, 2015 – Reading to Kids – Details coming soon
  • Sunday, December 6, 2015 – Midnight Mission: Serving Meals to the Homeless – Details coming soon

If you have an established nonprofit that you would like us to consider for future events or announcements, please let us know. We are looking for new nonprofits to serve in meaningful ways.

Questions? Reach us at pennserves@gmail.com.

Find us on the web, follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page!

Read about our previous events:

August 2014 – Penn Serves LA Strikes Again: This Time with Paint!

December, 2013 – Holidays are a Time for Giving

November, 2013 – Sending Holiday Warmth to our Troops

August and September, 2013 – Serving the Environment and LA Leadership Academy

May, 2013 – One on One Outreach

March, 2013 – Habitat for Humanity

January, 2013 – Inner City Arts

September, 2012 – The Midnight Mission

June, 2012 – Turning Point Shelter

 

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Penn Sages at the Art Institute of Chicago

By Lori Seegers C’77

The May 21st Penn Sages event was a success, enjoyed by the 15+ Penn alumni and friends, for an exclusive tour of the Art Institute of Chicago’s latest exhibition: Ireland Crossroads of Art and Design, 1690-1840 by the exhibit’s curator, Christopher Monkhouse, C ’69.  Christopher’s enthusiasm, depth of knowledge and wit kept the group fully engaged for nearly 2 hours.  Christopher regaled us with stories of obtaining the objets d’art and their provenances, including a Greek statue rescued from a British fountain. Lori “Goodman” Seegers, C ’77, arranged the event with Christopher and a meeting place for dinner that evening.  A large group proceeded to have dinner together at Seven Lions across from the Art Institute, where Christopher continued the conversation. A good evening was had by all. We’re so glad that some of you were able to join us!

sages1 sages2 sages3 sages4

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Chicago Sages Discover Louis Kahn in the Film “My Architect”

One day during my Art 140 Seminar (we’d attend these fantastic lectures and then we’d all meet in seminars with intent graduate instructors), Louis Kahn strode through the door of the classroom on the way to his office. Our instructor rose as he entered and we all followed, as if Michelangelo had just appeared. For up-and-coming architects that’s who he was. But I only discovered last night that there are no Kahn buildings on the Penn campus or, for that matter, in the city of Philadelphia, thanks to a city politician named Ed Bacon.

Chicago Penn Sages had a rare opportunity to join with faculty of the Art Institute to view Nathaniel Kahn’s film,” My Architect,” of his journey to discover his father. It was a fascinating film but even more fascinating was Nathaniel’s discussion about his memories of his father, who came to visit him periodically (Kahn was still married when Nathaniel’s mother became pregnant).

KahnBefore viewing the film, the Sages mixed with alumni of Penn Design and faculty of the Art Institute, enjoying hors d’oeuvres, wine and good conversation under the magnificent dome at the entrance of the Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater.

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