In honor of Daniel Fischler

Daniel Fischler remembers the call. “When a doctor calls you at 10:30 on a Friday night, it’s not going to be good news.” He had undergone an MRI for a herniated disc, but when the test revealed a shadow on his left bowel, a CT was ordered. Then came the call from his doctor. “He told me that it was very likely a tumor. I was knocked out, shocked by the bad news.”

Daniel Fischler and family imageDaniel and his wife, Jeannie, called their friend, Jean Kitchin, and days later they came to UNC Lineberger.

 The Fischlers are both 1990 UNC graduates. They met the night before second semester began during their junior year, and discovered the next morning that they were in the same business finance class. They’ve been together ever since, married for 21 years.

Jeannie says, “We received quick attention at UNC, had the biopsy done and a treatment plan developed: a 20-round course of chemotherapy followed by surgery. We felt at home at UNC and have a lot of confidence in our care team.” She compliments Melissa Holt and the other nurse navigators. “Anytime I called, someone was always there for me.”

During the time leading up to Daniel’s diagnosis of testicular cancer, they met with Dr. H.J. Kim, a UNC GI surgeon. Jeannie says, “Daniel was a little old for testicular cancer, so for a time Dr. Kim was trying to prepare us for other possible diagnoses. After he talked with us, he put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘One day at a time.’ That was the perfect thing to say.”

They next met with Dr. Matt Milowsky, their urologic medical oncologist. “He was very positive," Jeannie says. "He told us that it was testicular cancer, and the cure rate was 95 percent. After he said that Daniel commented that he was waiting for the ‘but.’ Dr. Milowsky replied that there was no ‘but.’”

Daniel was able to work during much of his treatment. “I would have treatment and take some days off to recover. It helped me keep my mind off things and made me feel normal.” Daniel had his chemotherapy in the Raab Clinic in Morehead City. ”They took great care of us.”

After 20 rounds of chemotherapy, Daniel and Jeannie celebrated with a ski trip. And the family got some good news via email about daughter, Hannah. She was accepted early admission to UNC. Jeannie videoed the family’s noisy, happy celebration, complete with Daniel’s bald head. “It was a good moment, extra special because we had gone through so much.”

Next up was a successful surgery to remove the tumor, performed March 1 by Dr. Eric Wallen, a UNC urologic surgeon. Now they’ll have their follow-up care at UNC.

The Fischlers had lots of community support. Jeannie says, “We received many encouraging notes from family and friends, offers of meals and had numerous people praying for us. Teachers of our son, Daniel, and of Hannah were very understanding. Everyone was rooting for us. We had a group of friends who had been through a cancer experience with a family member. We called them our cancer angels. Once you go through it, you learn what to do and how to assist. One of them urged us to take the ski trip to get our minds off things before the surgery. Another advised us, ‘Don’t go down any dark roads when you’re getting the information. Listen to what your health care professionals are saying and follow that advice.’”

Daniel describes cancer as “a big perspective check as far as what’s important and what’s not so important. As a result, I’ve changed. I’ve learned to be more tolerant."

Jeannie says, “I have told our children over and over that gratitude is the secret to happiness - that no matter what happens, you can always be grateful for something. We don't know why my ‘healthy’ husband got cancer, but we are so grateful and so fortunate: grateful for doctors and nurses and technology and treatments and health insurance. Grateful to friends and family and people we don't even know! You can't go through something like that and remain unchanged. Yes, things are getting back to normal, but ‘normal’ will never feel the same as it once did. That's for sure.”