Man with multiple cancers finds hope in a clinical trial at Karmanos Cancer Institute.
Marc Rosenzweig, 51, is a testament to the human will to survive, coupled with a sense of hope and desire to endure in the face of adversity.
Rosenzweig of West Bloomfield was diagnosed with Stage 3B Hodgkin’s lymphoma in October 2012 at age 46. He underwent two types of aggressive chemotherapy and had a CT scan done every three months to monitor his condition.
During one of those CT scans in December 2013, radiologists found a mass in his lung. It turned out to be Stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer, a genetic form of the disease.
“I never smoked before and I didn’t really know much about it,” Rosenzweig said.
What followed were various rounds of targeted chemotherapy that would last eight months or 12 months or even 16 months.
During an MRI in January 2016, Rosenzweig was diagnosed with a brain tumor his doctors described as “inoperable.” He underwent radiation and experienced troublesome side effects, including necrosis, which affected his ability to walk.
It was then that his doctors, who considered having him enter palliative care, referred him to the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute for a second opinion. Karmanos doctors advised him to stay on chemotherapy and then Sandeep Mittal, M.D., leader of the Neuro-Oncology Multidisciplinary Team at Karmanos, looked at his MRI scans and said he could do the surgery on his brain.
“I said, ‘What do I have to lose?’” Rosenzweig added.
He underwent Gamma Knife radiosurgery at Karmanos and stayed on chemotherapy until he could no longer tolerate it. The next type of chemotherapy lasted for four months and then stopped working.
“I was just holding out,” Rosenzweig said. “There was no drug left for me.”
And yet, at the beginning of 2017, he learned about a new option — a Phase II clinical trial at Karmanos offering a promising new drug being tested. Rosenzweig now takes the oral chemotherapy drug and comes to Karmanos every 21 days for check-ups.
“For me, the only way I get through this is with humor,” he said. “I’m doing well. Every day is a blessing. You have to have the ‘want’ to live. There has to be a reason to live.”
Rosenzweig says that his family, especially his mom, Judy, has been an important source of support, as well as his girlfriend, Carolyn, whom he began dating last fall. He also has two sons, Jacob, 24, a mortgage banker, and Sammy, 21, a graphic design student at Columbia College in Chicago. Additionally, he relies on his many friends and also comes to the Men’s Networking Group at Karmanos’ Weisberg Cancer Treatment Center in Farmington Hills.
He added that Karmanos’ support and the fact that he could go on a clinical trial have allowed him to “stay in the race,” as he describes it.
Lisa Lange, ANP-BC, AOCN, adult nurse practitioner and vice president of the Clinical Trials Office at Karmanos, says that every eligible patient who comes to Karmanos is offered the chance to participate in a clinical trial. These clinical trials provide as good, if not better, care than standard cancer therapies. Patients who also take part in clinical trials help pave the way for many new and more effective cancer treatments.
“Clinical trials give patients access to state-of-the-art cancer treatments,” Lange says. “We have a very large program with more than 800 clinical trials and scientific investigations taking place right now. Patients in trials receive the latest treatments and are under very close observation for safety. Trials help improve survival rates for future patients.”
Rosenzweig, who worked in commercial development and property management up until his brain surgery in 2016, said his main job is to keep himself alive and to appreciate the memories that he can make right here, right now.
“There is hope. Attitude is everything,” he said. “When you have cancer, it changes your perspective. You can be angry or you can embrace life. You can also be a teacher to others. Cancer doesn’t give you a free pass to cash it in. The only thing I can control is my attitude and the love that I give to others.”
Elizabeth Katz is the former external marketing and communications manager at Karmanos Cancer Institute.
For more information about participating in a clinical trial at Karmanos Cancer Institute or supportive services offered at the institute, call 1-800-KARMANOS (800-527-6266) or visit karmanos.org.