Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Dan Kopen’

Dr. Dan F. Kopen: A Celebration of Life

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

Dr. Dan F. Kopen: A Celebration of Life

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Copyright 2015
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD
The Face of America Project

Because someone we love is in heaven, there’s a little bit of heaven in our home.

Mercy Center in Dallas, Pennsylvania, founded by the Religious Sisters of Mercy, is a place Kitch and I know very well. WhenIMG_9629_sm_MC Kitch’s mother was in the long term care unit, we were there almost every day.

Located on the campus of Misericordia University, this facility and its staff reflect the inner light of Mother Catherine McCauley’s advice to meet people with peace and ease and to treat people with kind words, gentle and compassionate looks and a patient hearing of their sorrows.

At Mercy Center the four charisms of the Sisters of Mercy: Hospitality, Justice, Service and Mercy are practiced every day.

On this beautiful May afternoon, our destination was the chapel in Mercy Center. There we would offer condolences to Kathy Kopen, her children, her mother-in-law and her sister-in-law, and we would participate in “A Celebration of the Life and Loving Memory of Dr. Dan F. Kopen.” Both experiences produced priceless moments of admiration, friendship, gratitude and love.

What happened during the reception is private and personal, and it will remain in our hearts forever.

The celebration of life service was a beautiful and poignant tribute to a great man. This is our attempt to reconstruct the event and share several of the inspirational thoughts that put Dan Kopen’s life in perspective

A Wonderful Man

Shortly after 3 p.m., Sister Carol Gallagher welcomed everyone, IMG_1141smand she set the tone for the service with a quotation from New York Times columnist, David Brooks: I came to the conclusion that wonderful people are made, not born – that the people I admired had achieved an unfakeable inner virtue, built slowly from specific moral and spiritual accomplishments.

She characterized Dr. Dan F. Kopen as a wonderful person. They met 30 years ago when he was a young physician at Mercy Hospital in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. According to Sister Carol, Dr. Kopen was a man of strong opinions, kindness, gentleness and compassion.

Before she finished her remarks, she thanked Dr. Kopen for his gift of energizing love. In so doing she affirmed one of the most001620_CM important instructions of the woman who founded the Sisters of Mercy, Mother Catherine McAuley:

The most acceptable return a benefactor can receive from those on whom he bestows favors, is a countenance testifying the gratitude of the heart.

Sister Carol’s colleague, Sister Robert Marie, led the congregation in singing Amazing Grace.

The beautiful lyrics of this song and the magnificent voice of Sister Robert Marie caused a rush of emotions that made it impossible for me to participate in this part of the service.

After the opening prayer, Dr. Kopen’s children, Krystin, Kaytlin and Derek, read their father’s favorite poem, “If” by Rudyard Kipling. It was a very touching moment, because it reminded me of my high school graduation. On that day, my parents gave me a card inscribed with the “If” poem and a note that read: “If you follow this advice, you will be happy.”

An Ethical and Moral Man

Dr. Thomas Kelly, a distinguished college professor and administrator, has been a friend of Dr. Kopen since the 1950s. He FF Schoolcame to the podium with a notebook and a purpose. He wanted to define his friend by sharing special moments from their lifetime friendship. They grew up in a small town, Forty Fort, Pennsylvania. They participated in Little League, football and wrestling. They were outstanding students and leaders both in high school and in college.

When he was a teenager, Tom Kelly identified several characteristics in his friend, Dan Kopen, the second baseman on the Little League team and the slender young man who had his neck broken in a wrestling match. Dan Kopen was sincere, hardworking and studious. He had grit. Tom Kelly believes that distinguished him and became the foundation for his many successes in life.

Dr. Kelly shared the main point in his reflection in words that were carefully chosen and unequivocal: “Dan Kopen was the most moral and ethical person I have ever known.” Sitting in the back of the room, I could see people nodding their heads in agreement.

Once again, the words of Mother Catherine McAuley apply:

The simplest and most practical lesson I know…is to resolve to be good today, but better tomorrow.

A well-known scriptural reading from Ecclesiastes followed Dr. Kelly’s remarks. It began with words familiar to everyone in the congregation:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

A Compassionate Man

In 1987, a nurse named Michelle joined the medical team at Dr. Dan Kopen’s office. For the next 27 years she worked closely with Dr. Kopen and his wife Kathy to give patients excellent care. KitchIMG_8980_Michelle and I met Michelle when she visited our home to check Kitch’s reaction after her lumpectomy. Michelle was polite, pleasant and very supportive.

On this day she talked about the boss she loved, the patients he told her to think of first, and the members of her family whose lives were saved by Dr. Kopen’s extraordinary surgical skill.

Five times during her presentation she used the word compassion to describe Dr. Kopen and his interaction with patients. Every time she used this word she provided an example to help people better understand how Dr. Kopen’s kind and compassionate way helped patients and family members deal with the horrifying diagnosis of cancer. He knew when to give a patient a hug. A patient told Michelle, “He could deliver bad news and make you feel good about it.” A patient’s daughter was so impressed with Dr. Kopen’s care for her mother, she decided to become an oncology nurse. He knew that at some point in life we all need to be carried, and he knew how to carry people with compassion, kindness and skill. Patients sensed his quiet confidence and his compassion.

In her Cork Manuscript, Catherine McAuley wrote something that DDK_smsummarizes everything Michelle Rohrbeck said about her relationship with Dr. Kopen and his relationship with everyone he met:

Our charity is to be cordial. Now cordial signifies something that renews, invigorates and warms. Such should be the effect of our love for each other.

Michelle Rohrbeck’s insightful portrait of Dr. Kopen was followed by the singing of the Prayer of St. Francis and a reading from scripture, Romans 6:3-4. 8-9. Then, Sister Robert Marie sang the Alleluia, and the congregation joined her.

After this touching moment, a Catholic priest read the Gospel, John 14:1-6, 23, 27.

A Lucky Man

Sister Kate Morris is a member of the faculty at Holy Redeemer High School. In 1990, she met Dr. Kopen as a patient. During her battle with cancer, she experienced his “wonderful uniqueness.”

In a soft spoken voice, she told the congregation, my doctor was the best. He was dignified, humble, compassionate, gentle, thorough,IMG_4669_DK_OR and kind. He inconvenienced himself to get her information about her condition in a timely way.

She provided a memorable portrait of Dr. Kopen when she shared this story. On the day of her father’s surgery, her mother asked if she could bless Dr. Kopen’s hands with holy relics. Dr. Kopen responded with a comment, “I will take the holy relics with me into surgery. We will both be in God’s hands.”

After her surgery and treatment, Sister Kate became a loyal family friend of the Kopens. She recounted visits to their home and priceless moments she shared with his family. On one occasion, Dr. Kopen told her he was a lucky man. He said his most precious gift was his family, and he believed that all gifts are given by God.

Sister Kate ended her reflection with this description of her friend. Dan Kopen was a brilliant, dignified, loving, caring man. We experienced through him the love of God.
Sister Kate’s heartfelt tribute was deeply rooted in a cardinal rule of Catherine McAuley:

Confidence in God causes us to hope, for everything comes from His paternal goodness.

Community Moments

The final part of this beautiful celebration of life can best be described as a series of community moments. There was a thoughtful IMG_9620_sm_MCprayer of the faithful, in which everyone in the chapel asked a God of mercy to hear our prayer.

We sang a hymn that always evokes emotion and reflection, Let There Be Peace On Earth.

Karen Reiniger, an administrator at Mercy Center, led the congregation in a closing prayer, and Sister Robert Marie sang a passionate rendition of an Irish Blessing.

Before people left the chapel they stopped to talk with friends and acquaintances. They sought out the speakers to offer their thanks for the eloquent words they spoke about Dr. Kopen.

In the chapel at Mercy Center we gathered to celebrate Dr. Dan F. Kopen. Our hearts were burdened by the loss of this great man. KitchK_DC and I came to this gathering with a gnawing emptiness knowing that we would never see Dan Kopen. When we left, the pain was still real, but there was also a building sense of comfort. The mosaic of his life made us certain that he is in heaven. As Kitch said so thoughtfully, “Instead of praying for him, we can now pray to him.”

“A Celebration of Life: In Loving Memory of Dr. Dan Kopen” was a perfect tribute to a husband, a father, a brother, a son, a friend and a surgeon who is loved by many. Dr. Kopen’s life gives great meaning to Mother Catherine McAuley’s words:

If we are humble and sincere, God will finish in us the work He has begun. He never refuses His grace to those who ask it.

Thank you, Dr. Kopen for showing us the way to a life of health and happiness.

Thank you, Dr. Kopen for your inspiring example of what America is at its very best.

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Wilkes University: Life Lessons from Judge Rosenn

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

Wilkes University: Judge Max Rosenn: A Man for All Seasons

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD 2015
All Rights Reserved

Whatever games are played with us, we must play no games with ourselves, but deal in our privacy with … honesty and truth.Ralph Waldo Emerson

On a cold, damp March afternoon, Kitch and I made a Face of America journey to the campus of Wilkes University. OurPoster-1 destination was the Marts Athletic Center. Our purpose was to share a re-edited version of our Windsor Park Story, Judge Max Rosenn: A Man for All Seasons with students, teachers and parents who attended the March 26th, Gardner Educational Forum Lecture.

Kitch and I produced this episode from interviews we did with Judge Rosenn in 2004. We wanted to enable the most celebrated jurist in the history of Northeastern Pennsylvania to speak for himself about his life and his legacy. We wanted to highlight his definition of character, integrity, community service and justice. We wanted to enable young people to connect with a man who personifies the characteristics and values of America at its very best.

Several times each year, the Gardner Educational Forum brings Judy Bob Logo-1together students, teachers and parents in a community setting to learn about people, places and experiences that will expand the horizons of the students, affirm the important service of teachers, and enable parents to experience the creative and invaluable opportunities Judy and Bob Gardner have been offering their students and IMG_0729graduates for many years.

Judy and Bob have a priceless gift, they make everyone feel like a valued member of their educational family. They create a palpable feeling of belonging and joy when you are with them.

As always, Dr. Robert Gardner started the event with a warm welcome to everyone and an expression of gratitude to the attendees, the participants and the organizers of the event.

Thinking Out Loud

To give structure to this part of the session, our PowerPoint presentation contained 34 slides including 26 informational slides DK pictand 8 slides with questions that were designed to stimulate questions and comments.

We dedicated the lecture to Dr. Dan Kopen, a Wilkes graduate and a well respected surgeon. Dr. Kopen gave Kitch a second chance at life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In our opinion, Dr. Kopen is a man for all seasons. Little did we know that one of the participants in the room was a breast cancer survivor and a patient of Dr. Kopen’s. This is what she wrote about the dedication:

I, too, am ever thankful for the kindness and surgical expertise Dr. Dan Kopen afforded me in my life. His kindness and getting me through those days was a onetime gift of a lifetime. I can understand how you place him… in your presentation today.

Of all the questions we asked the audience, these three opened a gateway to the video:

Why should we study the life of Judge Rosenn?
What is character?
What is integrity?

The first question provided a natural transition to this thought. We study Judge Rosenn’s life because values matter…example is important. Studying his life will help us better understand the meaning and application of important values.

To provide context about the meaning of character and integrity, we included a discussion of Sir Thomas More, who, to this day, is the personification of courage, faith, forgiveness, honor, humility, learning, loyalty, patience and thoughtfulness. More was the first person to be honored with the title “A Man for All Seasons.”

Judge Rosenn Speaks

With help from Beth Spencer and Tracy Kaster, we were able set up title AMand screen the episode about Judge Rosenn.

Sitting in our garden on a beautiful summer afternoon in 2004, the judge spoke eloquently and sincerely about the life experiences which helped him to develop character. In his opinion, character is formed at home, in school and in a religious setting. He believes his character was formed by the time he was 12-years-old. For the rest of his life his character gave him a moral compass that guided his actions in private and public life.

He was unequivocal in his comments about the need for people with character and integrity in all walks of life. People who put theMR!A interests of the public they serve above selfish interests of personal gain. He was as critical of CEO’s of major corporations and bankers as he was of elected officials, and rightly so. This was the era of the Enron and the World Com scandals to name but two stories that dominated the news at that time.

When Judge Rosenn spoke about his legacy, he emphasized the service he gave to his community after the devastation of Hurricane Agnes in 1972. He said this was one of his finest moments.

He also mentioned his attempt to get equal treatment for women in military service, and his attempt to uphold the claim of a private citizen that public officials like the U.S. Treasurer were obligated to perform a just and accurate accounting of the disbursements of the United States.

Life Lessons

In this section we reviewed Judge Rosenn’s comments MRH3about:
Respect for the dignity of the individual;
Respect for law and country;
The need to judge people by their character, not their race, social or financial status and the need to learn something every day.

During the Q&A session, an undergraduate student majoring in education who attended the event with her father, who is a teacher,IMG_0721 told us that everyday, she and her father sit down to talk about what they have learned that day.

A young, athletic undergraduate told the audience he learned that it is important to be the best person you can be.

A teacher shared this poignant thought: “There’s hope out there. In the classroom, I have to be kind.”

Another teacher shared this hopeful thought: “I come away revived and feeling that it’s going to be alright.”

While looking for a quotation that would summarize our experience IMG_0746at Wilkes University, I discovered these powerful words of Robert M. Hutchins, president and chancellor of the University of Chicago:

Education is not to reform students or amuse them or to make them expert technicians. It is to unsettle their minds, widen their horizons, inflame their intellects, teach them to think straight, if possible.

That’s a perfect description of what Judy and Bob Gardner do for their students, and how they use their Educational Forum Series to inspire other teachers to do the same for their students.

What we experienced at Wilkes University was a classic example of America at its best.

Thank you, Judy and Bob.
Thank you, Beth and Tracy.
Thank you, Judge Max Rosenn.

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Rekindling the Flame: Thanksgiving 2011

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

Rekindling the Flame: Thanksgiving 2011

By Tony Mussari
Copyright 2011
Mussari-Loftus Associates
The Face of America Project

Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart. Seneca

Stories from the Heart

These are stories about people we met by circumstance or design during the past week.

The women in these stories personify what someone once said so accurately about Thanksgiving, “Don’t only give thanks for what you have. Give thanks for what you give.”

In our opinion, these stories reflect the spirit of America on its best day. They speak to the heart and soul of Americans at their best. They give truth to the words of Dr. Stephen Post, “America is the home of the free and the land of the good.”

Helping Hands

On a cold November afternoon as I was leaving a store in a strip mall, I watched a woman come out of a store and approach a Salvation Army volunteer who was ringing a Christmas bell and greeting shoppers. She was shivering.  Her hands were beet-red from the cold. 

“Give me your hands,” the woman asked the volunteer?”

Then, she opened a bag containing a new pair of woolen gloves, and she carefully placed them on the hands of the volunteer.

In astonishment, the Salvation Army volunteer asked, “Are you coming back to get the gloves, or can I keep them?”

The woman smiled and said, “They’re yours. Thanks for making our world a better place,” then she disappeared into the crowd.”

Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds. Theodore Roosevelt

Bobbie’s World

Kitch and I met Barbara Platt at the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center during our Face of America journey. She was singing copies of her book, This Is Holy Ground. It was a perfect opportunity to introduce our granddaughter to an author.

On that June day in 2010, we became fast friends.

Barbara Platt came to Gettysburg in 1955 with her husband who accepted a teaching position at Gettysburg College. She has been a student of the battlefield for more than 50 years. She is a woman of fierce independence and inspiring determination to learn, grow and make the most of life.

She is loyal to her friends, and she is willing to help people who ask for her help. One week after our chance meeting, Barbara did a wonderful interview for our book, America at Its Best.  Standing in the shadow of the place where President Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address, she shared insights about the battlefield, her work, her life, and her battle with breast cancer.

When I asked Barbara to identify someone from the battle who, in her mind, represents America on its best day, she did not name a general, or a statesman.  She told the story of a 70-year old man, John Burns. He was too old to join the union army, but when the battle began he picked up his Revolutionary War rifle and asked a commanding officer to let him join the fight.

Barbara was 83-years-old when she told that story. The breast cancer that slowed her down seven years earlier was in remission, and she was not about to let it prevent her from living a full life. To encourage Kitch, she wrote these words:

My very best to both of you. I am all too familiar with Kitch’s situation. Her treatment “ain’t fun,” but having been around now for seven years after the doctors almost gave up on me, I know it’s worth it.

This week, Kitch and I visited with Barbara at the Gettysburg National Battlefield Park to do an interview with her for our documentary about cancer. Her circumstance is much different today than when we first met. Cancer has returned with a vengeance, and the signs of its return are obvious. Nevertheless, Bobby is still doing the things she loves to do, and she refuses to spend any time lamenting her fate. “I certainly have no problem with my situation.  I never have. I wake up every morning, she told me, “and I do what I can to be productive.”

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. Thornton Wilder

A Library for Laurie

Laurie McDonald was an extraordinary woman of dignity, class, and passion. It was our good fortune to meet Mrs. McDonald at a Bedtime Stories event at the elementary school my granddaughter attends. She was welcoming and very pleasant to be with.

Described as a perfect principal by people who worked with her, Laurie McDonald was dedicated to excellence and innovation in the classroom.

During our Face of America journey, Laurie responded to virtually every newsletter with words of encouragement and support.
One year ago, on Thanksgiving Day, we received this note from her:

Dear Tony and Kitch,

“Thank you for the lovely note and beautiful picture.  I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and the upcoming holiday season is a blessed and happy one for you and your family!!”


One month later, December 2010, she responded to an article we wrote entitled “Putting the past behind us.”  

“Once again, thank you for sharing a beautiful story, your lessons of dealing with challenges in such a positive and loving way, have brightened and uplifted me on many a day, thank you and many blessings to you and Kitch.”  Laurie

In February, when Kitch was battling Cancer, this note arrived from Laurie:

“Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you both.  Fondly, Laurie”

In April, my daughter and I attended the funeral service for Laurie McDonald. The pancreatic cancer she had been battling for three months took her life.  She was the same age as Kitch.  She was diagnosed in December 2010 the same month as Kitch.

Monday, November 22, was a rainy day in Leesburg,Virginia.  Kitch and I attended the dedication of the Mrs. Laurie McDonald Library. It was a beautiful and emotional event for 800 students and many parents and guests.

Mrs. McDonald was celebrated with readings, poems and songs. It was a joyful but poignant experience. It was exactly what she deserved and something she would have enjoyed.

As I recorded scenes of children singing, laughing, talking and learning, I thought to myself how short and unpredictable life is, and how fortunate Kitch and I were to meet this incredible Face of America.

The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count
our blessings. Eric Hoffer

Donna’s Gift

On Tuesday, November 22, Kitch and I were returning from Virginia.  It was shortly after 5 p.m. It was raining heavily. The roads were treacherous. 

We stopped at the Sheetz store in Duncannon, PA.  My wife wanted to get a small cup of coffee.

When we approached the coffee maker, there were no small styrofoam cups.  We asked for help, and one of the employees at the food counter contacted someone in our behalf. The store was crowded, and it took a few minutes for the person to arrive with the replacement cups.

By that time, my wife had selected another size cup, and she was pouring coffee into the cup when Donna arrived.  Donna politely apologized for the inconvenience. My wife accepted her apology, and then she handed me the half full cup as she walked to another section of the store.
Donna restocked the empty section with cups. Before I made my way to the cashier, I thanked Donna for her willingness to help us.

I was standing in line waiting to pay for the cup of coffee, when Donna approached me. She smiled and asked, “Is the cup of coffee all that you have?”

I replied, “Yes.”

Then, Donna spoke these words. “You don’t have to pay for it. You were inconvenienced, and I apologize for that, and I appreciate your understanding.”

I don’t think I will ever forget that moment, the expression on her face, or the warm feeling of appreciation I experienced.

Donna just did her job, and she did it well. She was pleasant, helpful and cognizant of our needs.  She gave us more than we expected. She did not know anything about us. She only knew how to be kind.

Treating us with courtesy and consideration, she made a very favorable impression.

Although the road ahead would be long and challenging, Donna’s act of kindness and appreciation filled our hearts with the warm glow of gratitude.

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. Albert Schweitzer

Beautiful Thoughts

During this year of years, many people have lighted the flame within us. We will write about them before the year ends. For the moment, I would like to share some beautiful thoughts we received in response to a question we asked about important life lessons.

“Each human life is unique and has special value. We are social beings. As members of communities we have the opportunity to add value to the lives of others, and by so doing our own lives become more fulfilled.” Dr. Dan Kopen

“I learned that while we are people of place, we are also destined to move on from time to time… Love the people where you are, and do dig deep and meaningful roots. But realize as well that on a path of spiritual growth, there is something to be said for Rt 80!” Victor Chan is right, “Most people on a journey have to move on to grow… Wherever you are is home if you focus on the things that matter most!” Dr. Stephen Post

"Nothing trumps perseverance and hard work." Julie Marvel

“The lesson came to me through an act of kindness from a colleague. In the midst of a crisis, this colleague asked me how things were and I told her. She then ran into her office and came out to give me a red metal cuff bracelet that has this on it: ‘Be still and know that I AM.’  That remains the biggest lesson for me.” Dr. Agnes Cardoni

"Loyalty to whomever I was working with." Barbara Platt

“What lesson did I learn in life…To be thankful and not just on Thanksgiving.  I had a Sunday School teacher as a child that said, we could be thankful for something different every day.  I have never forgotten her telling the class that.  The Bible tells us that in everything give thanks because it is the will of God.  Each day is a gift from God and I must make it count.” Janie Kiehl

“I’ve learned not to be so critical of things. To be more understanding and more compassionate, to have faith.” Louie Bigiarelli

"The most important lesson I’ve ever learned is that God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. I was fortunate to have been taught this a child and it has given me a foundation to build my life, values, and life principles on."  Chuck Wagner

"To receive kindness and understanding from my neighbors and friends, I have to be kind and understanding to them." Helene Bigiarelli

"Life is, indeed, short so there is no time to feel sorry for yourself. We would just be wasting our days and leaving little time to do for others.  I guess this is one of the lessons I have learned…. " Dr. Marilyn Birnbaum

You can be sure we will be thinking about these life lessons as we give thanks for the gift of life and the many opportunities afforded us during our Face of America Journey.

From our hearts to your home, Happy Thanksgiving, and may all of your stories have happy endings.

Kitch & Tony Mussari

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Battling Cancer with Hope and Determination

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

A Special Evening at Candy’s Place

By Kitch & Tony Mussari
Copyright 2011
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

“Home is not where you live, but where they understand you” Christian Morgenstern

Anyone who has experienced the anxiety, agony, pain and uncertainty that comes with a diagnosis of cancer knows full well the need for words of comfort, help and encouragement.

They also know that cancer victims, and their caregivers, need safe havens where they can experience what Kitch calls “No ‘C’ Days.”

In our little corner of the world, we are fortunate to have such a place. It is officially known as The Center for Cancer Wellness of NEPA. We prefer its more affectionate and personal name, Candy’s Place.

On this October evening, Kitch and I went to Candy’s Place to listen to Dr. Dan Kopen talk about breast cancer.

Dr. Kopen and Candy’s Place are about as close as any cancer patient will get to perfection. Dr. Kopen represents the best in breast cancer diagnosis and surgery. Candy’s Place offers cancer patients a kind, thoughtful, warm and welcoming environment for recovery. You feel it the moment you enter the building, and it stays with you long after you leave.

During our visit, Dr. Kopen emphasized 10 important points about breast cancer.  His presentation began with hope and it ended with reassurance.

1. Cancer is not the disease it used to be.

2. In the 1970s, it was a death sentence. That is not the case today.

3. Advances in digital mammography enable doctors to diagnose early stages with greater accuracy and frequency.

4. Cancer is a scary word; the earlier the diagnosis the better then prognosis.

5. Much of what you hear about breast cancer is not all good information.

6. More younger women are being diagnosed today.

7. There are 300 ongoing studies about breast cancer.

8. There is a correlation between the environment and cancer, but it cannot be pinpointed accurately.

9. To effectively battle breast cancer the mind and the body must be in sync.

10. A second opinion is one of the best ways to align the mind and the body to combat breast cancer. A patient should not leave any stone unturned in making a decision about the proper treatment. Her physician should do everything possible to get her the best treatment available.

That is precisely what Dr. Kopen did for Kitch.  He encouraged, and he facilitated a second opinion at Fox Chase in Philadelphia. That visit made all the difference for us.

We returned from our visit with Dr. Laurie Goldstein with a very specific plan and renewed confidence. The physiology and psychology were aligned thanks to the wonderful people we met at Fox Chase.

Dr. Dan Kopen is a genuine from-the-heart as well as the mind kind of doctor.  He has treated 3,000 breast cancer patients.  He has performed 2,000 breast cancer surgeries. His credentials are impeccable. His demeanor is quiet, competent, compassionate and welcoming. Just being in his presence makes a patient feel comfortable.

On this evening, he arrived early, and stayed late.  He answered every question, and after his presentation he visited with several people who wanted to seek his advice about their situation. Watching him out of the corner of my eye, I saw a person who loved his work because he knew he was in a position to help people successfully navigate the dark gravel road called cancer.

He also made time for three student nurses from Wilkes University, and members of the administrative staff at Candy’s Place.

Penny Cunningham, the founder of Candy’s Place, was on hand to greet everyone. Penny is an amazing woman.  She has dedicated virtually every minute of her life to the mission of Candy’s Place.  The premature death of her sister Candy Vincent Mamary in 1998 closed the door to a priceless relationship with her sister, but it opened the door to Candy’s Place for thousands of people who benefit from its programs like yoga, exercise, massage therapy and cancer awareness and treatment information.

With great skill and due diligence, she has assembled a top notch team of professionals and volunteers headed by Nicole Farber. They are the heart and soul of Candy’s Place. They make it what it is by attending to all the little things that matter to patients and caregivers.

At one point in the evening, I saw an image of Dr. Kopen, Penny Cunningham, and Nicole Farber talking with the student nurses and a cancer survivor. As I focused the image for a digital picture, the words of Martina McBride’s song, “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” reverberated in my memory:

When you’re weak, I’ll be strong
When you let go, I’ll hold on
When you need to cry, I swear that I’ll be there to dry your eyes
When you feel lost and scared to death,
Like you can’t take one more step
Just take my hand, together we can do it
I’m gonna love you through it.

It’s the perfect description of the people who made this evening so special, and the life- saving blessings of Candy’s Place.

During the evening while I was recording video and digital images, I thought about Kitch’s battle with breast cancer.

Under the watchful eye of Dr. David Greenwald, she successfully completed chemotherapy. It was difficult, demanding and at times debilitating, but she never gave up and she never gave in.  

When she finished her chemotherapy infusions, she took the extra step to guarantee a successful outcome by taking 33 radiation treatments administered by Dr. Norman Schulman and his wonderful staff of technicians.

To facilitate the transition from treatment to the restoration of a full life, Kitch visits Candy’s Place once a week for one-on-one yoga lessons with Theresa Novak. These sessions have been invaluable in her recovery.

Before Kitch and I got into our car for the ride home, I turned to look at the entrance to the building. What I saw in the darkness of the night was a bright moon resting just above Candy’s Place.  Below it, three women were sharing stories about the evening. They were smiling and enjoying the comfort of good information, good company, delicious treats and a sense of belonging that lifted their spirits and gave them hope.

Oliver Wendell Holmes was right, “Where we love is home.”

Thank you, Penny Cunningham.

Thank you, Nicole Farber

Thank You, Dr. Dan Kopen

Thank you, Kitch for giving me the opportunity to love you through it.

You are four faces of America on its best day.

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