Against All Odds, Inc. > History of AAO

Sadly, Jerry Kaplan, our founder, lost his seven year battle with cancer at the end of February 2002.

The section below is written by Jerry's wife, Carol.

Against All Odds, Inc.

Fighting Cancer is like running a marathon. It takes a long time, and at times quitting seems easier than the pain. We hope to encourage patients to make the fight and, hopefully, achieve the ultimate goal of cure.

On November 28, 1994, my husband, Jerry Kaplan, woke up with a terrible, sharp pain in his back. We thought it was a kidney stone, but after a week of testing at the Southern NH Medical Center and a biopsy in Boston, we learned that he had malignant tumors in his bile duct. Bile duct cancer is extremely rare with little success in treatment. That was when our long, and at times difficult, learning process started.

The day after the biopsy, we were told that surgery was not an option. We were basically told to go home and get ready for him to die. We were offered a treatment, chemo-embolization, a risky treatment which did not offer a chance for long-term success. We were told that this treatment could extend his life somewhat, but would not bring a cure. The prognosis was 3 to 6 months and, if the chemo-embolization worked, as much as 2 years. We rejected this treatment and looked for a more positive alternative. With the help of family, we found Dr. Jean Emond and ten days after that horrible prognosis, the surgery, to remove the tumors, was successfully completed at the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco. The surgery included removal of 75% of Jerry's liver, his gallbladder, his appendix and one lymph node, which had a microscopic amount of cancer in it. After surgery and our return to New Hampshire, we insisted on as receiving as much treatment as possible and proceeded with a nine-month regime of chemotherapy and radiation. Jerry and our family wanted to feel that we had fought as hard as we possibly could to beat this disease.

This challenge taught us a great deal about advocating for ourselves. Shortly after our return from California, calls started to come from all over the country. This continued to grow and it became obvious that a great need existed to help individuals and their families with newly diagnosed cancer. With this in mind, Jerry started Against All Odds in November of 1998. The mission of the agency, an incorporated non-profit organization, is to provide cancer patients with the information and support that we needed but could not find.

Unfortunately, Jerry lost his battle against cancer in 2002. However, by fighting hard he was able to survive for 7 years (much longer than the original 3-month to 2-year prognosis). The success he achieved, allowed him to see our younger daughter graduate high school, both of our daughters graduate college and be admitted to law school, and our older daughter get married. It also gave him the opportunity to start Against All Odds, help many cancer patients and family members, testify in front of state legislatures and speak to groups in several states. And, he celebrated his 60th (and 61st) birthday – something he was originally told was impossible. He cherished these experiences and they made, what we consider the extra 7 years of his life, incredibly meaningful.

We feel that we have been very fortunate, and we want to give back. This work has become a passion for our family and the members of our board. We truly believe that with the right attitude and the ability to advocate for yourself, your chance of survival will improve. We want to help you achieve that vital goal.