A Father’s Everlasting Impact
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Even though Tiffany Janajreh’s father passed away from pancreatic cancer, he continues to have a profound impact on her life, from her decision to follow in his footsteps and become a healthcare professional, to the poignant revelation on his birthday that she and her husband are expecting their first child—a son whose name will honor her father’s legacy.
While a college student, Tiffany joined the Alpha Zeta Omega (AZO) Pharmaceutical Fraternity, an organization dedicated to licensed healthcare professionals and students training for a healthcare profession, including dental hygienists like Tiffany. Every year, the AZO president selects a National Fraternity Charity of the Year to support, and since 2012, the Lustgarten Foundation has been the designated charity, in memory of fraternity members who have passed away from the disease.
Then, in 2013, pancreatic cancer became personal for Tiffany when her 78-year-old father, Dr. Albert Puccia, was diagnosed.
Dr. Puccia was very active and healthy, had no family history of pancreatic cancer, and was running a thriving dental practice when he started experiencing stomach problems, which led to a series of other health issues, and MRIs, PET scans, and surgeries to diagnose and treat those issues. By the time he was finally diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he was already receiving palliative care because he had lost 50% of his muscle mass and was bedridden as a result of undergoing multiple operations. He died just 19 days later. “Getting the pancreatic cancer diagnosis was both a shock and a relief because my family finally had answers as to why my dad kept getting sicker, despite his surgeries. It brought my family peace knowing he was able to make all of his own end-of-life decisions,” Tiffany shared. “This diagnosis taught me to never take any day with my loved ones for granted.”
Dr. Puccia was admired by everyone who knew him; he had a calming presence and a compassionate demeanor that attracted people to him. When he passed away, there was a line wrapping around the funeral home for people waiting to pay their respects because he was so beloved, and even his patients considered him a friend. Tiffany became a dental hygienist and a teacher to aspiring dental hygienists because of the impact her father had on her, and she routinely uses techniques with her own patients that she learned from her father.
Tiffany’s dad taught her and her siblings that if you don’t like something, then you have a responsibility to change it. To pay tribute to her father, she is dedicated to changing the future for other pancreatic cancer patients and their families by supporting the Lustgarten Foundation. Many of Tiffany’s friends and relatives participate in their hometown event, the Boston Walk for Pancreatic Cancer Research, and since 2018 she has also attended Lustgarten’s New Brunswick Walk for Pancreatic Cancer Research with the AZO fraternity. Tiffany is amazed by how much the New Brunswick Walk has grown, now featuring inspiring speakers, more attendees, and most importantly, more survivors every year.
Tiffany recommends that others who want to get involved with supporting the Lustgarten Foundation participate in a way that is both manageable and meaningful for them, and then their involvement will organically evolve. Tiffany believes supporting the Lustgarten Foundation is absolutely critical for giving patients more time, more treatment options, and most significantly, more hope.
“When it comes to scientific research, we often put money into areas where progress will be quickly evident—which has not been the case for pancreatic cancer. That’s why the work the Lustgarten Foundation is doing is so crucial; this disease affects more people than we realize and we simply can’t put it on the backburner, no matter how difficult it is to detect and treat,” Tiffany shared. “Pancreatic cancer research has been historically underfunded, but the Lustgarten Foundation—which directs all donations to life-changing research—has emerged as the leading organization focusing on this cancer and relentlessly trying to improve the odds for survival. I am proud to be part of the Lustgarten community.”