NICOLE RECHTER: Dedicated Ambassador
Incidental Introduction Saved Her Mother’s Life
Written By Debra Gelbart
Nicole Rechter never imagined that donating her professional meeting production services to the Seena Magowitz Foundation would save her mother’s life.
Yet four years after she began helping the Foundation plan and execute its annual fundraiser, Nicole found herself on the phone with the organization’s founder, Roger Magowitz, telling him about a devastating diagnosis.
A Relationship Develops
But long before that, in early 2015, the CEO of her long-time client, Serta Simmons Bedding, asked Nicole to provide her professional services to a charitable organization’s annual fundraising event he, Gary Fazio, was chairing that year in Orlando. Her company, Integra Productions, designs, produces and manages national sales meetings, product launches, incentive trips, landmark grand openings and, of course, fundraisers.
The organization Gary Fazio was helping is the Seena Magowitz Foundation, and before she donated her services to it, Nicole didn’t really know much about the foundation’s mission. But she quickly learned about how much it helps pancreatic cancer warriors.
The Seena Magowitz Foundation event in 2015 was so successful and so lauded by the attendees that Roger asked Nicole if she would consider helping again the following year.
Difficult News But A Lifeline To A New Treatment Protocol
In June 2019, Nicole, who with her mom is a resident of south Florida, contacted Roger for advice. Her mom, Sue Chase, had been told she had a mass on her gallbladder and her pancreas. “The first person I thought to call was Roger,” Nicole said.
Roger arranged for the premier pancreas cancer medical researcher in the world, Daniel Von Hoff, M.D., to review Sue’s official diagnosis of advanced gallbladder cancer made by an oncologist in Miami and confirmed by doctors in New York City.
Dr. Von Hoff sent Nicole information to share with her mom’s doctors about a clinical trial specifically for advanced cancers of the biliary tract (liver, gall bladder or bile ducts) being conducted by an oncologist in Tucson, Arizona, Rachna T. Shroff, M.D. Dr. Shroff is chief of the Section of GI Medical Oncology at the University of Arizona Cancer Center. The clinical trial she’s connected to as a principal investigator involves administering a combination of three chemotherapy drugs that Dr. Von Hoff and his team pioneered as an investigational treatment (known as “the triple”) for advanced pancreatic cancer. The three drugs are nab-paclitaxel, gemcitabine and platinum-based cisplatin Dr. Von Hoff’s research is funded in part by the Seena Magowitz Foundation.
For Nicole, that connection amazed her. “It was stunning to discover how everything had come full circle—that my mom could be helped by the very organization I was helping,” she said. “There was no way after all I’ve learned about Dr. Von Hoff’s success that that I wouldn’t go with what he recommended,” she said. “I told my mom, ‘We’re going to Arizona.’”
Nicole’s mother spent the summer in Tucson undergoing the “triple” chemotherapy regimen. Typically, only gemcitabine and cisplatin are administered to patients with advanced biliary tract cancer, but outcomes with that regimen are not always encouraging.
But the three-drug combination, as an investigational treatment, already is showing promising results against this rare cancer. By November of 2019, Nicole’s mother had completed the triple and her scans showed tremendous progress shrinking the tumors. She went back to New York City and underwent a 12-hour surgery there to remove her gallbladder and numerous lymph nodes, including one potentially malignant one lodged in her pancreas that couldn’t be removed by itself. “We wanted anything potentially dangerous out,” Nicole said. So during the operation, surgeon Marcelo Facciuto, M.D. of Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York also performed a Whipple Procedure to remove any possible cancer in the pancreas.
Her mom is feeling good and Nicole is hoping for the best. “I pray, pray, pray that she gets clean scans and solid time to enjoy her life,” Nicole said.
And she’s grateful to the Seena Magowitz Foundation and its founder and is honored to be an ambassador for the organization. “Roger is the epitome of someone who’s there for you, connecting you to the right people fighting a horrible disease,” Nicole said. “The work that he does, the heart that he gives, make me beyond proud to support the Foundation and its accomplishments. I’m thrilled to be part of what Roger and his organization are bringing to the world.”