Cancer survivor repays gratitude with giant gift to Beaumont


Giant, inflatable colon raises colorectal cancer awareness

What’s gray, pink and red, 32 feet long, 20 feet wide and 12 feet high? Answer: A giant, inflatable model of the human colon. The display travels to Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak and Beaumont, Troy in March during National Colorectal Awareness Month.

“It definitely grabs your attention,” says Harry Wasvary, M.D., director, Colorectal Multidisciplinary Tumor Clinic, Beaumont, Royal Oak. “How often can people walk through a 32 foot, inflatable colon, complete with polyps?”

Last March Beaumont leased a similar inflatable colon display. It was so popular, one of Dr. Wasvary’s patients, Michael Serling and his wife Elaine, gave Beaumont Health System a generous gift to purchase one. What motivated the Serlings to give? Michael’s story is below.

A cancer survivor’s story

Four years ago, Michael Serling, of Orchard Lake, experienced rectal bleeding and discomfort. Concerned, he sought medical attention. A biopsy confirmed rectal cancer. Months later, he’d be fighting for his life.

Cancer of the colon or rectum is referred to as colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that each year more than 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer. More than 50,000 Americans die annually from this cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is one of only two cancers that can actually be prevented through screening.

Almost immediately after his diagnosis, Serling, then 66, began researching surgeons and cancer centers in Southeast Michigan. A lawyer, he did extensive fact-finding. He was impressed with Beaumont’s Multidisciplinary Tumor Clinic, along with its director and surgeon, Dr. Wasvary.

Soon after, he met  Dr. Wasvary. Explains Serling, “We bonded, 10 days out I had a date for my surgery.”

On April 12, 2010 he underwent an eight-hour procedure with Dr. Wasvary.

About five weeks after his surgery, Serling began five months of chemotherapy. It was during his chemo that he also underwent radiation therapy.

Recalls Serling, “To say it was intensive, would be an understatement. My wife Elaine, a registered nurse, and I gritted our teeth. We remained optimistic during the process.”

He praised the care and attention he received from the Beaumont medical team at the Colorectal Multidisciplinary Tumor Clinic. On nurse navigator Shelli Bergeron, Serling says, “Shelli tied it all together. She was just outstanding, navigating me to doctors and resources.”

He also adds, “Dr. Wasvary is the kind of guy that is very talented, great bedside manner readily available and accessible. I also received outstanding care from oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Margolis and the chair of Radiation Oncology, Dr. John Robertson. They all gave me hope and insight into my cancer.”

Serling also enjoyed the camaraderie he felt with other patients during his chemo treatments. Listening to others and their experiences, provided what he calls, “bolts of optimism.”

“I was determined to get through this. I fought like hell.”

Gift to Beaumont

In gratitude for the care received, last year Michael and Elaine Serling gave Beaumont a generous donation.

“We’re very grateful for the support of the Serlings,” says Dr. Wasvary. “Their gift supports the mission of Beaumont Health System.”

Explains Serling, “We wanted to give back. Our gift is a three-prong approach with funding for colorectal cancer research, care for those who are financially in need and public awareness. We had heard about the large, inflatable colon display and we thought that it would be a great gift to Beaumont. It gets peoples’ attention. It makes them curious. They can walk through it. It educates and hopefully gets people to think about their own health.”

Today, at 69, Serling is doing well and his mantra remains, “Keep your optimism. Never surrender.”