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Monday, April 02, 2007

News Article: Palo Alto Daily News Story 4/2/07

Melissa McRobbie / Daily News

Jerrold Dash, pictured in his apartment near Stanford Medical Center on Sunday, is breathing easier these days, having received a double lung transplant at Stanford in early March. Dash had been diagnosed with lung cancer in February 2006. On the table in front of him is an apparatus that helps him measure his progress as his lungs grow stronger.
Dash gets second wind

Double lung transplant patient wins cancer fight
By Jason Green / Daily News Staff Writer

The 33-year-old Texas resident was delivering word puzzles to fellow patients awaiting transplants at Stanford University Medical Center when his pager lit up March 5.

At first Dash ignored it. But a stolen glance confirmed it was a local number. His heart was in his throat as he asked to borrow a phone.

"It was my doctor," he recalled. "He said, 'Well, we got you some lungs.'"

Since being diagnosed last February with Stage IV bronchioloalveolar carcinoma, a type of lung cancer that affects nonsmokers, the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics systems engineer had been hoping for that kind of good news.

"It was a little surreal," he said. "You prepare yourself mentally for it. But I still got a little shaky."

A day later, the diseased organs were gone and Dash was breathing more easily than he had in months. Now free of cancer and on the road to recovery, he hopes to return to Fort Worth by June, rejoining his wife, Rhonda, and their two daughters, 3-year-old Raegan and 1-year-old Ravyn.

"I couldn't believe it," said Rhonda, recalling the day Dash called her with the news. "I started jumping up and down, crying. One of my daughters knew I was talking to daddy and she asked me what was wrong with him. I said, 'Nothing. These are happy tears.'"

Although he's beaten cancer, Dash isn't pushing it out of his life. He wants to erase the stigma surrounding lung disease which, as he discovered, doesn't always affect cigarette smokers.

"First, we have to break down that stigma that you deserve lung cancer," he said. "Nobody deserves cancer. Nobody deserves lung cancer."

Dash's oncologist at Stanford, Heather Wakelee, appreciates his outlook. "Lung cancer is not just a disease of people who smoke," she said, noting that roughly 9 to 10 percent of men and 20 percent of women who develop lung cancer never smoked.

Dash also wants to be an inspiration to other late-stage bronchioloalveolar carcinoma sufferers. Transplanting lungs into such a patient is regarded by some in the medical field as a controversial procedure because "the odds of the cancer coming back are higher than not ... and Jerrold is aware of that," Wakelee said.

But for someone as young and fit as Dash, the procedure made sense. Before the operation, he was one of two patients with the cancer awaiting a transplant, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing's Web site.

"I don't want others to give up. I want them to take a risk," he said. "If you have a terminal illness, fight it. Don't accept the status quo treatment."

As strong as he sounds today, Dash acknowledged that he needed help getting through the ordeal. Prayer and the kindness of others gave him - and his family - the strength to hold on, he said.

Sue Passailaigue, for one, provided a place for him to stay in Mountain View while he waited for the call. She offers the condominium to patients such as Dash who need to be close to the hospital in case an organ becomes available. Donations of cash, time and household items help keep it open.

"Sue calls it the compassion condo," Dash said. "If the walls could talk, the stories they would tell."

Dash is now living in an apartment a stone's throw from Stanford University Medical Center and taking his recovery one day at a time. Physical therapy begins soon, but the former Winston-Salem State University fullback is already walking and doing flights of stairs.

In short, he has traded one focus, beating cancer, for another: getting healthy enough to resume the life he was forced to put on hold.

"We won't mind being a simple, uneventful family," said his wife Rhonda, who paused to smile. "We've had enough life-changing events. Sometimes boring is OK, we've found."

E-mail Jason Green at

ON THE WEB Read about Jerrold Dash's battle against cancer on his blog at

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jerrold,

    Congrats on receiving your lung transplant.

    As a non-smoker I also have BAC and my oncologist is Dr. Wakelee. If you are willing I would like to speak to you about your experience. How can I get in contact with you aside from this blog?


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