Survival Mode

Pancreatic cancer survivor Lenny White is riding the road to recovery

Survival ModeOne morning, Lenny White looked in the mirror to see jaundiced eyes staring back at him. He checked another mirror just to be sure it wasn’t poor lighting in the room and immediately called his internist. Tests quickly revealed an unsettling diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. “I know about your chances with pancreatic cancer,” White says. “But I am a fighter no matter what happens to me. I figure you fight and you get better. I didn’t see myself dying from pancreatic cancer.”

A few days later, White met chief of the Division of General Surgery and acclaimed pancreatic cancer surgeon Mark Callery, M.D., and knew he was in good hands. “I don’t know how many doctors would have taken the case, because on the surface it didn’t look too good,” White says. A week and a half after the diagnosis, Callery performed a Whipple procedure to remove the tumor navigating a one-millimeter margin between the tumor and the superior mesenteric vein and only a one-tenth of a millimeter margin to the superior mesenteric artery. “I feel there are two reasons I am here on this Earth today,” White explains. “Number one is God and number two is God’s assistant, Dr. Callery. It is as simple as that.”

White’s positive outlook on his diagnosis stayed with him through recovery and follow-up care. Much to his caregivers’ surprise, he insisted on walking the day after his surgery. “I said I am not going to lie in bed like a piece of gefilte fish,” White recalls. An avid kayaker, cyclist, and horseback rider, he stayed as active as possible throughout his treatment. During five months of chemotherapy, White walked home to Brookline from the hospital on many days, and then during radiation, he rode his bike to and from the medical center nearly every day. It was only for the final three days when exhaustion and nausea finally forced him to catch a ride.

Survival Mode

With his treatment regimen completed and his cancer firmly in remission, White recently rode his bike back to the medical center for a different reason. In recognition of the outstanding care he received, he donated $50,000 to the Callery Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund and $50,000 to the BIDMC Campus Transformation Fund. But he wasn’t finished. Since last fall, White has generously pledged $300,000 in total to the medical center to advance its top priorities. “I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am,” he says. “I’m also grateful for my parents for the way they raised me and for teaching me the value of Tzedakah, or charity. When you get up to heaven, it is better to have a pocket full of receipts than a checkbook you hope you might do something with.”