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Among Friends: Marvin Kimmel

Finding hope in everday heroes

Promise -

Marvin Kimmel, left, says his diagnosis took him through an array of emotions, but at the end of the day he needed to know whether there was hope. He found it in his MD Anderson oncologist, Michael Wang, M.D.Photo by Barry Smith

By Michelle Moore

When Marvin Kimmel was a kid, his heroes were baseball greats such as Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams. Now, at 84, he’s a cancer patient, veteran, husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, and his definition of hero has changed significantly. Kimmel says he still admires the guys with baseball mitts, but his real heroes are the ones wearing white lab coats.

Kimmel, of Boca Raton, Fla., discovered 10 years ago that he had stage 4 mantel cell lymphoma (MCL).

“I went through a tough period, and the first thing I felt was anger,” says Kimmel. “I think every cancer patient experiences that. I went to two distinguished cancer centers, and they both gave me a terminal diagnosis.”

His son wouldn’t accept it, though, and reached out to a friend who was head radiologist at a hospital nearby.

“He told my son that there is only one place to take your father, and that’s 
MD Anderson,” says Kimmel.

Kimmel made the trip to Houston and spent eight months at MD Anderson. He’s been receiving treatment for the past decade from Michael Wang, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Lymphoma/Myeloma, along with a group of doctors in Florida.

“My oncologist in Florida comes from MD Anderson. He was a fellow along with Dr. Wang. I have a team that is there for me, and Dr. Wang is the quarterback,” says Kimmel. “You need to go where people can treat you. If you have cancer, 
MD Anderson is the place to be. Its doctors are ahead of the game. They have a list of options, and if one doesn’t work, they are already prepared with the next. That’s the difference between this place and others.”

Still very active, Kimmel continues to participate in some of his favorite activities. He plays tennis five times a week, despite numbness in the bottoms of his feet due to chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, and he has an avid interest in airplanes. He manages to find time to make a difference in the lives of others; born in Brooklyn during the Depression, he learned the importance of giving back early on.

“I’ve learned that when you give, it comes right back to you,” says Kimmel. “I just donated to lymphoma research and had no idea that the funds were in turn used specifically for MCL research. I’m still around because of MD Anderson and its research. Since my original diagnosis 10 years ago, I’ve had five great-grandchildren. I wouldn’t have seen any of them if I hadn’t come to MD Anderson.”

Kimmel raves not only about MD Anderson but also about Wang.

“When I first came to MD Anderson, I was prepared for the worst, and I brought my accountant and my estate planners,” says Kimmel, whose daughter-in-law also is a patient of Wang. “My relationship with MD Anderson is like a family. I speak to Dr. Wang maybe two or three times a week. He is such a hard worker and is so dedicated to cancer research. I get my passion from him.”

Wang counters with a modest response.

“I’m only a part of this great institution,” he says. “We’re able to accomplish what we accomplish because of our colleagues, our team efforts, our nurses and not only our institution but also our collaborators throughout this country and even the world. Marvin is an excellent patient who’s passionate. He has a great track record of supporting our research, some of which would not have happened without his critical help. He truly is the most generous of philanthropists.”

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center