Celebrating the Life of Sara Bacon Chechik
Sara was born in Lancaster, PA to Bruce and Betty Jean (BJ) Bacon and moved to reside in Plymouth, MN. Sara graduated from Wayzata High School (1983) and attended the University of Wisconsin, achieving a BA in Communications (1987). Just weeks before graduating, Sara fortuitously met her future husband, Joel Chechik, while sharing a picnic table and looking out upon Lake Mendota from the UW Union Terrace.
Loving and Living Life—
Sara loved to travel and lived in London during part of college, followed by marvelous trips throughout her life to Spain, Italy, Germany, Thailand and most of the US. Sara loved to meet people and succeeded as an Account Representative for American Express. She was rapidly promoted to Regional Sales Director and was proud to attain President's Club achievement.
Sara started a family with daughter Lucille Anna (now 19) and daughter Sonya Rose (now 16). Sara's two daughters were the treasure of her life and she poured love into the two beautiful girls and their many scholastic and athletic events.
Sara loved the outdoors and relished in the Minneapolis park system activities, as well as the massive beauty of Lake Superior's coast. Sara shared some of our family's greatest memories with close friends and that wonderful view of deep, crashing water. She also made sure to always have relaxing "family time" at home, cooking or walking her sweet Boxer, Saldo, in the Linden Hills community that she loved.
Life Altering News—
In Jan ’11, Sara, 45-yrs old & an extremely active, energetic, outgoing (& otherwise, healthy) young woman, is diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer by Dr. Jason Reed, an astute Internist at Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis. She went in for a routine MRI due to back pain after years as a runner, and significant carcinoid was found in both lobes of her liver. The primary tumor was in the small intestine and removed the next month.
A Zebra’s Life—
Sara received two treatments of selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) in April and May, ’11, and then began daily octreotide injections infused w/ LAR once per month to reduce flushing. She never had the tough GI issues that many carcinoid patients face, but had substantial flushing & heart-racing. She stayed extremely active throughout her battle. She enjoyed playing tennis, biking, walking, rowing, traveling & enjoying all the elements of having a young family.
Visit to Music City—
The access to the Gallium 68 scan (Ga68) was a large enticement to have her care managed by Dr. Eric Liu, as he established the first clinical trial in the United States for Ga68. I vividly remember our initial visit to the clinic in Nashville to see Dr. Eric Liu. We were all standing together near a central area in the clinic. Sara had a big flush & her chest, neck & especially, her eyes became bloodshot – all in front of Eric & a couple nurses. Everyone said, “Wow. That’s a big flush!” – but then, it comforted her to know she was in the right place & with the right physician.
A Zebra in Europe—
By mid ’12 it was determined that pursuing peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT) would be the best alternative. Sara’s tumor burden was so significant that going in & simply removing liver tumors & allowing the liver to rejuvenate would not be possible. In Oct ’12, Sara made the first of three visits to Bad Berka, Germany & under the care of Dr. Richard Baum, received excellent care that reduced & stalled the overall tumor burden. Sara fought hard for coverage of PRRT. A legal appeal was begun & after several months of showing the clinical benefit of PRRT, coverage/reimbursement was obtained.
A Strong Heart—
By the last PRRT treatment (4/13), Prof Baum realized that the tumor burden had been reduced; however Sara’s heart valves had been compromised by the massive serotonin blasts during years of heavy flushing. Valve replacement must occur prior to a transplant, as the heart wouldn’t be strong enough to support any transplant procedure.
Sara opted to have her heart valves replaced at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN after seeing Dr. Heidi Connolly (Cardiologist) & meeting w/ Dr. Hartzell Schaff (Cardiac Surgery). Sara had a double valve replacement w/ porcine tissue valves in Aug ’13. She recovered very well & was home within a week. At day 27, she rode her bike around Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis (5 miles).
Going for MVOT Gold—
Sara was asked to consider the multi-visceral organ transplant (MVOT) & in Nov ’13, met with the transplant team, Drs. Rodrigo Vianna & Thiago Beduschi at The Miami Transplant Institute. The belief of capturing the entire GI system in one fell swoop appealed to Sara, who knew that there would likely be only one attempt at transplant; so why not swing for the fences? Sara began prep for the MVOT. She did not want to die from cancer.
Sara moved to Miami (a requirement for transplant patients to be physically located within 3hrs of the clinic) in Jan ’14. Insurance/coverage issues stalled the formal listing with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). However, a strong appeal was conducted & by late March ’14, Sara was approved & “listed” for MVOT.
Thanks to a young donor, a 12-hr+ transplant procedure was conducted on Nov 5 ’14, with very positive results. The surgeon, Dr. Vianna, believed that there was tumor involvement in the lymphatic system & thus, the MVOT had been the correct choice. A liver-only transplant would not have provided long-term benefit. After a rapid, strong recovery, Sara was discharged from Jackson Memorial hospital on Nov 21st – day 17. She was elated w/ her new, Cancer Free body!
Laying down the Sword—
After being discharged from the hospital, dehydration and other maladies occurred that subsequently reversed the recovery. Sara fought voraciously through 76-days in SICU. Sara Chechik passed on February 17, 2015 after a courageous battle with carcinoid/neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs). She was only 49 years old. Joel, Lucy, Sonya, Sara's sister Kathy (Donnelly) and dear friend, Birdie Cunningham were by Sara's side to see her spirit move forward, finally untethered from the physical body that was ravaged by disease.
Sara's family wants you to know this--While post-op complications (namely "Graft vs. Host Disease, GVHD) became insurmountable, Sara passed away "cancer free" which was her goal when she pursued MVOT. She did not want to die from cancer. Sara, Joel & their entire family believe in the importance of MVOT as an option for select carcinoid patients. It is through Dr. Liu's research (along with many of his colleagues) & your ongoing support - that carcinoid/neuroendocrine patients will continue to have new treatments for future success. Sara's family has chosen to keep her spirit alive by asking friends and family to help continue the fight against this disease with a donation to the Healing NET Foundation.
Thank you for helping to honor Sara and keep her fighting spirit alive and well!