Sidney’s Story

Stacy Hochberg and her family didn’t know what to do. 

The Spielfogels

Several weeks earlier, her father, Sidney Spielfogel, had seemed like a relatively healthy man in his eighties. But when he began losing weight rapidly in December 2016, his doctor ran some blood tests.

Sidney was diagnosed “out of nowhere,” Stacy recalls, with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). At first, Sidney’s doctor assured him that although the cancer was chronic, it was not fatal. But the family grew more worried when Sidney developed a lump under his arm.

A biopsy of the lump suggested he had a rare condition, Richter’s Syndrome. Sidney’s doctor wanted a second opinion. They waited “for what felt like an eternity” and became increasingly worried and concerned each day. “We were at our wits end,” Stacy recalls. The Spielfogel family had to choose how—and where—to move forward with Sidney’s cancer care.

Stacy and her siblings turned to Memorial Sloan Kettering, which they knew had an excellent reputation in cancer care. They wanted to get their father an appointment quickly, but they also wanted to make sure that the appointment would be with the right doctor for Sidney and his diagnosis.

One Friday night in January, Stacy and her husband Jonathan were in Miami International Airport waiting for their plane back to New York. They were on line to board and in deep conversation about Sidney’s health when the airline staff announced that the flight would be delayed due to mechanical problems. Exhausted and frustrated, Stacy and her husband returned to the gate to wait. They sat down and continued to discuss Sidney, and the next steps for his treatment.

A moment later, two women approached Stacy and Jonathan.

“Excuse me,” the first woman said, “but I couldn’t help but overhear you talking about Memorial Sloan Kettering. We work there—maybe we can help?”

“It was like an angel dropped out of the sky,” Stacy remembers. By coincidence, Stacy had been sitting next to Kathryn Martin, Chief Operating Officer, and Wendy Perchick, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Innovation of Memorial Sloan Kettering.

The two women told them that MSK has specialists treating every kind of cancer, including his, and told them patient admissions could help them find the best doctor for their father. By the end of the night, Stacy had scheduled Sidney’s appointment for the following Tuesday at MSK’s Rockville Centre location, close to his home on Long Island. She and her family were elated and relieved.

Sidney’s appointment was with Dr. Pamela R. Drullinsky, a medical oncologist who specializes in several cancers, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Dr. Drullinsky was “so nice, so amazing and calming,” Stacy recollects. After weeks of uncertainty, fear, and stress, Sidney and his family finally had answers, a doctor they trusted, and a treatment plan that felt right.

Since that serendipitous night in the airport, Stacy says that all the MSK employees she meets “soup to nuts, have all been so incredibly nice to us.” From COO Kathryn Martin and SVP Wendy Perchick, to every nurse and staff member at the Center, “I can’t say enough good things—about everyone!”

Stacy and her siblings wanted to find a way to thank Kathryn Martin, Wendy Perchick and Memorial Sloan Kettering publicly. After speaking with staff in MSK’s Office of Development, the family donated $10,000 for a digital plaque on the Interactive Recognition Wall in Memorial Hospital. Now, everyone who passes by will know of the family’s gratitude.

Seven months later, in July 2017, Dr. Drullinsky said, “Sidney had a complete response to the treatment.” Stacy and her family are thrilled, and appreciative of everyone at MSK that helped their father. “Every single person at Sloan has been warm and embracing,” Stacy adds, “it’s really quite something.”

If you or a loved one would like to schedule an appointment at Memorial Sloan Kettering, you can call us at 800-525-2225. You can also request an appointment online.