By Marivir R. Montebon
It was to be Jeff Stern’s thrill of a lifetime: to rappel 470 feet of building in Jersey City in memory of his wife Marlene Stern (NaFFAA CT State Chairperson and FilAm Global Community Advocate) who passed away after a 7 ½ month battle with pancreatic cancer (12/13/58 – 02/17/11) and brother-in-law Joe Perez who succumbed to lymphoma on June 1, 2012.
Both deaths had a significant impact on Jeff and left a void in his life as well as that of his two children, Kenneth, who currently plays rugby for the Philippine National Rugby Team (The Volcanoes), and Elizabeth, who is currently in college and former Philippine National Figure Skating Champion. The rappelling fund raiser seemed a meaningful cause and an outlet for the pain of their loss.
Family and friends cheered Jeff from start to finish, and obviously growing wilder when he was about to land and finally landed. Jeff, a businessman and resident of Connecticut, scaled down in about 14minutes, one of the fastest of the participants.
“Where you scared doing that? What were you thinking while you were up there?” I asked. “No. I wasn’t scared. I only thought, get down, get down,” he laughed. Rappelling is a game of will, just going over the edge, first and foremost, of course. Secondary to it is one’s physical ability to stabilize oneself with one hand, and to hold down descender using the other.
Jeff said his arms have hardened while rappelling. Extending his arms up, he smiled and grimaced at the same time, “I need a massage.” “Would you do it again next year,” I asked again. “Yes!” he said quickly, and his team of cheerers screamed once again. GO JEFF GO!!!
The OVER THE EDGE rappel for cancer was more than a stunt, of course. There were about 120 more who braved the Harborside Financial Center Plaza 5 that sunny September 29 morning by the Hudson River, all in the memory or honor of their loved ones. It raised funds for the research work of the American Cancer Society as it continues to find breakthroughs against the cloak of death by cancer. Participants had to raise at least $1200 to be able to rappel that weekend. Jeff’s team raised over $22,000. Jersey City Mayor, Jerramiah Healy, event and congratulated the organizers for having raised a quarter of a million dollars that weekend.
As far as cancer is concerned, there is so much fighting and persistence needed. More research must be done to effectively curb the ascending mortality it brings worldwide.
Frankly, there is not a rosy picture as far as cure is concerned. Cancer remains the most treacherous of all diseases. For women, breast cancer remains the no. one killer, followed by uterine corpus, and colon and rectum. For men, it is prostate, colon and rectum cancer, and melanoma.
There is an estimated 13.7 million Americans with a history of cancer, the American Cancer Society data showed. Breast cancer continues to be the site where survivorship is highest, at 41%, projected in the span of ten years, from 2012-2022. However, the colon and rectum cancers is projected to have slim survivorship at 8% for the same time period. Hence the need for intensive researches for cure and prevention.
The American Cancer Society has spearheaded fundraisers such as Over the Edge rappelling and Relay for Life marathons to respond to the multi-faceted issues imbedded in cancer prevention and cure as well as patient and caregiver care. More and more people have been inspired and joined the Over the Edge challenge. Diedra, another participant and Jeff’s team captain could not have said it any better. ”I was beside myself in awe. I loved it and I want to do it again!”
With this high energy attitude, the race for cancer cure has definitely reached greater heights.