Personal health issues inspire couple to help battle disease
Supporting research to fight cancer and cardiovascular disease is nothing new for Norma and Al Geller. Nothing could be more personal, either, as each fought battles against ovarian cancer and heart disease. Says Mrs. Geller, “We’re going to keep giving where we see a need.”
Over the past few years, the Gellers, owners of Cleveland-based Fish Furniture, committed $1 million to fund research into cancer and cardiovascular disease at Cleveland Clinic.
This year, they gave $50,000 in response to the urgent initiative of Brian Bolwell, MD, Chairman of the Taussig Cancer Institute. Dr. Bolwell cites the need for more philanthropic support as federal funding for research becomes less available.
Twenty years ago, Mrs. Geller inadvertently found out that she had ovarian cancer during a routine doctor’s visit. She had volunteered to take a blood test to be used for research. “If it can help somebody else, go ahead,” she told her doctor. Through this test, the cancer was detected. “If it hadn’t been for research, I would never have known about it,” she says.
Mrs. Geller was treated successfully and began seeing Cleveland Clinic obstetrician and gynecologist Jerome Belinson, MD, for her ongoing care.
Mr. Geller’s heart problem became evident one day when he was playing tennis and felt a burning in his chest. Though he had been in robust health, he required quadruple bypass surgery after Cleveland Clinic cardiologist A. Michael Lincoff, MD, who holds the Charles and Charlotte Fowler Endowed Chair in Cardiovascular Research, found several blockages in his heart. In an intricate and difficult surgery, the medical team fixed the problem through the use of Mr. Geller’s own arteries, wider and stronger than veins, and less likely to form new blockages.
The Gellers’ gifts will provide more funding for research in cardiovascular disease. They also continue to support the work of Ram Ganapathi, PhD, with the Focused Innovative Strategies and Hypothesis (FISH) Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, which they established with another gift in 2004. (Dr. Ganapathi thought up the FISH fund name as a tribute to the Gellers and their furniture business.)
The Gellers are feeling great and are eager to see the fight carried on to beat the diseases that affected their lives so much. “Without medical research, how would we have been helped?” asks Mrs. Geller. “What we have is important for us to share.”
To make a gift supporting Taussig Cancer Institute or any area of Cleveland Clinic, visit our secure giving site or call Institutional Relations and Development at 216.444.1245 or toll-free at 800.223.2273, ext. 41245.