Our Friends In Need

Below are stories from our classmates and friends who are experiencing extremely serious medical situations such as breast cancer, childhood cancer, and ALS. Click on a tab below to read the details about these families so you can get a small glimpse into each of their lives.

Tami Eagle Bowling: Metastatic Breast Cancer

Tami_Pic1_NeedWhen Tami Eagle Bowling found out she had breast cancer during a routine mammogram in March 2015, her first reaction was, get it out. But the doctors couldn’t do surgery. Tami’s cancer had metastasized to her liver. It was Stage 4 invasive ductal carcinoma. Her daughters, Sienna and Ashley, were just 2 and 5. “Imagine wishing for a double mastectomy,” Tami says, “and being told it’s too late.” With no history in her family and a clear baseline mammogram at 40, Tami never thought that twenty months later, this could happen to her.

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 30% will have a metastatic recurrence. Tami and her former Marlboro High School ’91 classmate, Meredith Gottfried Winick, another breast cancer patient, have committed to raising money for the Breast Cancer Alliance. Here is the promise of research: Just three months before Tami’s diagnosis, the FDA approved a new treatment for metastatic breast cancer. She began taking the medicine in combination with a hormone inhibitor. Today, her scans show no evidence of disease.

“I haven’t told my daughters that I have cancer,” Tami says. Since she didn’t lose her hair and she still has her boobs, she appears healthy. “It’s my maternal instinct to protect them as long as I can.” The terrible truth is that Tami’s condition is far graver than those whose treatments cause hair loss. Those patients can be working toward a cure, whereas there is no cure for MBC. Tami fights an emotionally torturous battle every day, looking the same while knowing that her disease is terminal.

To thrive, she loves up her daughters, spends time with her husband, David, her sister, Alli (’94), brother, Lee (’98), niece, nephew, mom, dad, and friends. The Eagle family has deep roots in Marlboro. First cousins the Kluges also graduated from MHS ––Scott (’93), Stacey (’96), and Rob (’02). Mustangs to the Rescue can ease their burden.

Tami herself works to advocate for better laws for MBC patients and mentors other patients through their journey. She knows first hand that research provides new ways to manage Stage 4 breast cancer as a chronic illness so that she and patients like her can live longer. Tami’s girls need her. And she needs you.

If you are able to contribute to breast cancer research, please click the button below to make a donation to the Breast Cancer Alliance on behalf of Tami and/or Meredith. Once your sent to the BCA website follow these steps: 1) Choose “honararium” under “type of tribute”, 2) Select the “in support of” option and 3) Write in Tami Eagle Bowling and/or Meredith Gottfried Winick

Daniel Weissman: Childhood Brain Cancer

Lisa_Pic1_NeedDuring the winter holidays of 2015, Lisa Lebowitz‘s three-year-old son, Daniel, had trouble balancing on the stairs at daycare. “I figured that maybe he had fluid in his ears.” A few weeks later, Daniel threw up, but he wasn’t sick. Lisa and her husband, Stu, took Daniel for an MRI on March 2, 2016. “When the neurologist came to talk to us, she was a white as a ghost and visibly shaking.” Daniel had a brain tumor.

Within two days, the toddler underwent a craniotomy. The standard protocol is to surgically remove the tumor and then do brain and spine radiation, followed by chemotherapy. But for a three-year-old boy whose brain is still developing, radiation would cause severe, long-term cognitive problems. So Daniel is undergoing much more intensive chemo in order to avoid radiation.

He has been in Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) since March, with short breaks at home. Lisa and Stu have been swapping nights in the hospital room for months. It is close to a two-hour trip, one way. They both have full-time jobs and another son at home, Daniel’s eleven-year-old brother, Ryan.

Daniel just finished his fourth round of chemo and recently received a transplant of his own stem cells. His last scan showed no visible sign of disease.

His next rounds of transplant chemo will be inpatient. He will not be able to return to school for 9 months post-transplant. In addition, he will be coping with developmental delays and additional rehab. Only two more rounds of transplant chemo to go!

The family would be grateful for contributions, which will go towards out of pocket medical expenses, childcare and therapies. Please click on the link below to help.

Sam Jundef: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Jessica_Sam_Family“Remember the ice bucket challenge?” asks Jessica Hazan Jundef (’91), referring to the social media phenomenon that raised money and awareness for ALS.  Her husband, Sam Jundef (’92), a former Marlboro High School football player, was diagnosed with the disease the very summer those Facebook videos appeared of Americans dumping vats of ice over their heads.

Sam was getting in shape for his 40th birthday when his trainer noticed that he couldn’t put his hand flat while doing a push up. It’s just two years since then, and Sam is confined to a wheelchair. He can only move two fingers on one hand. He is fed through a feeding tube five times a day.  He has begun using eye-gaze technology to communicate.

ALS is a motor neuron disease that affects the communication between the brain and the muscles.  When the muscles stop getting the message from the brain to move, they atrophy. But the brain remains healthy. Which mean sufferers know exactly what is happening to them.

Jessica and Sam have been in love since high school. They’re raising their children, Avi and Mia, in Marlboro, too. “The reality is that Sam’s needs have to be put ahead of everybody else’s, including, unfortunately, our kids,’” says Jessica, “Homework is constantly interrupted. I haven’t made dinner in months.”

Jessica works as a teacher, but right now she has many full-time jobs. One is to make her house handicapped accessible.  She has put lifts in the garage so Sam can get into the house, installed an elevator, ripped up the carpet, raised the toilet, and added a handicapped-accessible roll-in shower.  Then there is the equipment––a wheelchair for bathing, a regular wheelchair, a hospital bed for sleeping, breathing machines and suction machines.

The ice bucket challenge was a huge boon to ALS research.  In addition, the Jundef Family raised enough money for Mass General to fund a clinical trial. But the outlook remains grim. There is no cure for ALS.  The battle is typically lost two to five years after diagnosis.

Jessica has found tremendous support from the Joan Dancy Foundation, an ALS support group in Monmouth and Ocean Counties that sends nurses, social workers, and medical equipment, and calls families to check in.  She would be grateful for any donations to this foundation (which are tax deductible), and for donations made directly to the Jundefs to offset their medical expenses.