STANLEY VITIKAS: AMBASSADOR AGAINST PANCREATIC CANCER
A Grateful Patient Turned Committed Fundraiser
Written By Carlin Kuhlmann
August 30, 2018
Diagnosed: Late 2007
Status: 11 Year Survivor Since Late 2018
Grateful Survivor Turned Committed Fundraiser
Stan Vitikas didn’t expect to be contemplating major surgery as a healthy 47-year-old. But when doctors detected a dilated pancreatic duct, a high-risk indicator for pancreatic cancer, and later a mass on his pancreas, he found himself seeking second opinions and poring over all the information he could get his hands on. Educated and informed, Stan decided to move forward with the Whipple procedure in March of 2008 to remove the mass that doctors believed to be the early stages of pancreatic cancer.
His surgeons successfully removed what turned out to be a Stage 1, Grade 3 adenocarcinoma. After he recovered from surgery, he underwent a grueling six months of chemotherapy and 30 days of radiation therapy. Having survived one of the deadliest cancers, Stan returned to some sense of normal life with a perspective that was forever changed. “I was lucky my cancer was caught early, but in that moment when you’re waiting to hear if your cancer has spread, you start to think about your legacy and what you should do with the rest of your life when you consider it can be taken away.”
This realization along with immense gratitude for his positive outcome incited a passionate commitment for helping others with the disease. It started with becoming trained as an Educated Advocate to join over 300 other purple-clad volunteers in Washington D.C. to lobby congressional leaders for increased federal funding for pancreatic cancer research. Though it was a wonderful experience that later resulted in some gains for underfunded cancers, Stan quickly realized that government support alone was not enough to make a real difference in pancreatic cancer’s low survival rates.
Inspired To Ask
In continued pursuit of how he could help advance research efforts, Stan was soon connected to Roger Magowitz, Founder of the Seena Magowitz Foundation. “Roger has had a profound impact on me,” Stan shares. “His call to action, ‘If not me, then who’ along with his passion, commitment and dedication inspired me to do more.” Stan agreed to help raise funds and recruit golfers for the Seena Magowitz Annual Golf Classic, held in his home state of Arizona at the time. Including his own donation, he raised about $4,000.
It felt good to give back and Stan dedicated more time and energy to learning how he could become more effective as a fundraiser. “It’s a process to learn how to ask people for support. Asking can be uncomfortable, but I believe the cause is greater than my discomfort.” He found that many people not only said yes to making a contribution but thanked him for what he was doing.
Over the past seven years since he first asked a dozen friends to donate to a golf tournament, Stan has consistently increased the funds he’s raised for the Seena Magowitz Foundation by 20% from the previous year. Expanding his list of potential donors, asking corporations for matching gifts, and leading by example with his own generous giving yielded $29,000 in 2018 for pancreatic cancer research. All because Stan asked.
According to Stan, Roger Magowitz has a lot to do with why the folks on his list continue to give year after year. Each year since Stan’s first year of fundraising, Roger has committed to calling each donor to personally thank them and tell them more about the research their support is helping to fund. “That’s just who Roger is,” Stan affirms. “He is so singularly committed to this cause, I can’t not help.”
Though today (2018) he is a survivor of over 10 years, Stan hasn’t forgotten what it feels like to be newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. “It’s easy to feel helpless and hopeless,” Stan recalls. His surgeon exuded hope that fueled Stan to keep fighting, he laments not being able to meet a survivor until the latter part of his treatment. Through the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Stan serves as a patient liaison volunteer, coming alongside those who are fighting the disease, preparing for Whipple surgery, or dealing with the effects of surgery. He offers emotional support and strives to help patients maintain hope: “Hope is so important. I want people to know that there are long-term survivors of this disease and that advances are being made.”