Roger Caplinger had expected good news, but almost eleven months after the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, the words still kept him from crying.
"They are cancer free."
That was the message of October 30th from Dr. Doug Evans of the Medical College of Wisconsin. Caplinger, the medical director of the Milwaukee Brewers, and wife Jackie hugged, their smiles shining and tears streaming down their faces.
"In one of our first meetings last December, Dr. Evans shook my hand and said, "Roger, you'll be fine. You will be healed, "Caplinger recalled. "I still said," I want you to say it. He said, "Roger, I'm glad to let you know that you're cured."
"That's what I had to hear. You want this confirmation. That's the result they want for every patient. But we know that we have a percentage of people who have this result. "
Therefore, Caplinger is not treated with pancreatic cancer. In addition to his work of directing player and field health with the Brewers, he has a new purpose in life: to raise awareness of the disease and, even better, to find a cure.
"I will not stop trying to raise awareness," he said. "I will not stop trying to find a cure. We will continue to find people who help invest in our research. We want everyone to have this result.
"It's not about me anymore. It's about pancreatic cancer. We need to help our community and this country find a cure. "
The entire month of November is devoted to the awareness of the disease. The 15th of November is called the World Pancreatic Cancer Day. More than 70 organizations from 30 countries will gather this day to raise awareness and raise money for research.
One of these organizations is the Pancreaic Cancer Action Network, also known as PANCAN. Steve Lipshetz is the November awareness and media chairperson in Milwaukee, a subsidiary of PANCAN, which has several events later this month, including an event on November 18 at Mitchell Park Domes where Caplinger is the keynote speaker.
On this day, the domes are dipped in purple light, the color intended for the awareness of pancreatic cancer.
"During the month, many prominent buildings across the region will be lit purple, including the Pfister (hotel), the US Bank (Center), the Wisconsin Gas Building, and many others," said Lipshetz, whose wife Jeanne's mother and her her sister lost pancreatic cancer.
"We try to do everything we can to raise awareness of this disease. In Wisconsin, three people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every day and two will die within five years. Of the 55,000 people diagnosed across the country, 44,000 die each year (within five years).
"We want those who have the disease to know that they are not alone. The color purple is a symbol of this support. "
Caplinger, 51 years old and part of the Brewers organization for 30 years, was not alone in his 11-month struggle with the disease, which included chemotherapy and radiation for six weeks, a complicated, intrusive operation known as the "whipple procedure" Followed by six more months of chemo. During this time he had the full support of family and friends, the entire Brewers organization, the brilliant people of the Medical College of Wisconsin, and new acquaintances with PANCAN.
"There was not a day when I felt alone," said Caplinger. "I had my wife, my children, my doctors, my nurses. Everyone was there looking for me. That's the way it is for everyone. I talked to many people who got the same support. And the credit goes to the Medical College of Wisconsin. These people are incredible. They are the best in the world.
"They are so disciplined in their approach. Do you know how great it was to have this in Milwaukee? I did not have to go anywhere. I could look out the window during chemotherapy and see Miller Park. MCW is literally in our backyard. That was my goal every day – to be healed and to be back in the same routine I was used to, but from a different perspective.
"I am still in several clinical trials and must follow the guidelines. I will get another CT scan in four months. They keep an eye on what I do and how I feel. So it's not over. It is another step on the journey. We are very happy that we have the result that we have.
"For some reason, God" blessed "me with this disease. It needs to be paid to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer and to find out how this community and the medical college can eliminate this disease. "
From diagnosis to recovery it was 11 months for Caplinger. In many ways, it was eleven months of hell, including the loss of 25 percent of his body weight. But he does not complain. He is not sorry. Instead, he is grateful to have survived with a clean prognosis and to receive news that too few patients get to hear.
"It was an incredible journey," said Caplinger, who benefited enormously from early detection. "But I'm a better person for that, I learned a lot about myself, I learned a lot about everyone around me, there are people I did not know so well.
"When we received this diagnosis, we said," What are we doing? How do we want to attack this? Jackie said, "Roger, you've been part of a team for 30 years. Why should that be different? You can not do that yourself. We can not do that ourselves. We need a team behind us. "
"My colleagues here at the Brewers did everything I needed. Everyone has joined forces to help me fight this disease. That became my other full-time job. I am forever thankful to them.
"It was the hardest year of my life, but also the most rewarding year of my life, because I learned so much about myself. I have learned so much about my family, so as not to take it for granted. Baseball is a game. Your goal # 1 is to win. Guess what? We won. We won this fight. "
Shortly after Caplinger's diagnosis, Bryson Nakamura, Brewers Manager of Integrative Sports Services, brought the slogans "We've Got This" and "Battle Ready" printed on purple rubber wristbands distributed to close friends, colleagues and others. When he learned he was cancer-free, Caplinger did not remove his bracelet and put it in a drawer.
"We are not done yet," he said. "My fight was won. Now we will fight for everyone else. We still wear our bracelets for them. "