Celebrating a Double Blessing
Forty years ago, Jeff Leitch wasn’t sure he’d live to see his 21st birthday, let alone his 60th. But in November 2012, he did exactly that, quietly celebrating the milestone with his wife, Jan, and family.
Diagnosed with bone cancer while a student at the University of Virginia in 1972, he first was treated at the university’s medical center. When the cancer returned as the spring 1973 semester ended, Mr. Leitch decided to seek treatment at Cleveland Clinic, closer to his home in Westlake. His doctors fused his right knee with the hope of preventing the cancer from spreading. But three years later, cancer cells were found on his sternum and spine.
Jan & Jeff Leitch
"It was a little more precarious at that point," Mr. Leitch says. "I was treated with cobalt therapy, a type of radiation, and monitored closely for the next 10 years."
He is thankful that the cancer didn’t spread and credits Cleveland Clinic for that — and for giving him a future.
A Special Anniversary
"We wondered how we might best share the celebration of this 60/40 anniversary," Mr. Leitch says. "At 40, Jan surprised me with a party. When I turned 50, I allowed my friends to ‘roast’ me. But for this occasion, we yearned to find a unique way to express our gratitude for all the blessings of these 60 years."
He realized this was the perfect time to remember, honor and thank the dedicated physicians of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, whose skillfulness and care were so critical to his survival and recovery.
"In particular, we wanted to recognize and honor Dr. Carl Nelsen, now deceased, Dr. John Bergfeld and Dr. Kenneth Marks – all of whom were my primary caregivers for more than 20 years," he says.
Because the Leitches have a passion for promoting education at all levels, it was a natural fit for them to assist in underwriting the annual Heritage Lecture Series, established by Dr. Marks in 1993.
The lecture series was developed to link surgeons, residents and fellows in the Orthopaedic Research Center with colleagues in the Lerner Research Institute who are associated with orthopaedic projects. A visiting professor speaks on topics of interest to both groups.
"We are thrilled to acknowledge both the care and years of incredible service to Cleveland Clinic by Drs. Nelsen, Bergfeld and Marks in this most meaningful way," Mr. Leitch says. "We’ve always wanted to give back to Cleveland Clinic, even in a small way."
The Leitches also created a Personal Fundraising Page on Cleveland Clinic’s Giving website and invited friends and family to mark the 60/40 celebration by helping them honor the three physicians who cared for him so many years ago.
"The generous response to the Personal Fundraising Page has shown me the power of someone’s story – how it touches people and motivates them to help," says Mr. Leitch, who couldn’t be more grateful for the care he received at Cleveland Clinic.
"When things like this happen at a young age, it changes how you look at life," he says. "It’s important to celebrate the triumph and blessing of survival."