A Lifelong Commitment to a Cure
March 6, 1986 will forever be seared into Dr. Lynn Cetin’s memory as the day her father, Dr. Avedis Cetin, passed away from pancreatic cancer, just four months after he was diagnosed. He was 56 years old. Lynn was only 16 years old, a high school student left to navigate the world without her dad—the hero she believed was invincible.
“You’re in the shadow of this loss forever,” said Lynn, who followed in her father’s footsteps by becoming a doctor. She is now a pediatrician on Long Island.
Lynn’s parents, both physicians, met in New York, having emigrated to the United States from Istanbul, Turkey. Lynn and her older brother John were raised in a close-knit Armenian family on Long Island. Suddenly in 1985, her dad, a well-respected anesthesiologist, began experiencing back pain. He had been diagnosed with diabetes a few years prior and was also found to have kidney stones. After undergoing lithotripsy to break up the stones his pain did not resolve. Eventually, and since CT scans didn’t exist in 1985, he asked a surgical colleague at the hospital where he worked to operate on his abdomen to determine the cause of his pain. Shockingly, the surgeon found pancreatic cancer that had already metastasized. It was in the tail of his pancreas, so he had not developed jaundice as is common in many pancreatic cancer diagnoses. The surgeon was forced to close Lynn’s dad up, with the tumor still inside, and shatter their family with this life-changing news.
Unfortunately, radiation to treat pancreatic cancer wasn’t available nearly 40 years ago, and there weren’t any appropriate clinical trials that could’ve helped Lynn’s father, leaving chemotherapy as his only treatment possibility. Lynn’s family was devastated by the prognosis, but her parents traveled to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for options. While they tried to hold onto hope that a cure may be available, the reality was that this wasn’t a battle they were going to win. After unsuccessful chemotherapy and no surgical options, Lynn’s father prepared the family for the inevitable. Despite suffering from painful side effects caused by the chemotherapy, Lynn’s father was so dedicated to helping his own patients that he continued to work until February, just one month before he passed away. Lynn, her brother, and her mother tried their best to create a “new normal” after such a tragic loss, but they’ve never stopped missing her father and mourning all of the holidays, milestones, and even the ordinary, day-to-day moments they didn’t have with him.
Several years ago, Lynn saw an advertisement for the Lustgarten Foundation’s Long Island Walk for Pancreatic Cancer Research at Jones Beach—located close to her neighborhood—and she knew she had to get involved. She started walking with a friend, and then more friends and family members joined her. She soon realized many colleagues at her pediatrics practice were also affected by pancreatic cancer in their families. Together, they formed Team ProHEALTH Pediatrics at the Long Island Walk and have participated as a “work family” for 12 years now, proudly waving their team banner and walking with thousands of others in a sea of purple. Walking together has helped foster a strong sense of camaraderie and build relationships with colleagues and their families outside the workplace.
“There is strength in numbers, and our walk at Jones Beach has become an annual event we look forward to,” said Lynn. “My family and co-workers have walked in the rain, wind, beautiful skies, and in our neighborhoods during the pandemic. I walk in memory of my father and many others dear to me who have passed away from this dreadful disease.”
Every year, Lynn looks forward to the Walk as a way to keep her father’s memory alive. It is also a way for her nephew Christopher and niece Kylie to honor the grandfather they never had a chance to meet. She enjoys seeing so many walkers united in spirit, excited and dedicated to the same mission of finding new treatments and new methods for detecting pancreatic cancer early. “By Walk day, everyone has already completed the hard work of raising money, and the Walk becomes a time to celebrate progress, offer hope to families currently battling this disease, and join with others who understand firsthand what it’s like to be impacted by a pancreatic cancer diagnosis,” shared Lynn. “The Walk turns one of the worst things that a family could go through—the unexpected, heart-wrenching loss of a loved one—into a day of purpose.” Also, Lynn believes it’s important for her patients and their families to see firsthand the difference they’re making by supporting a worthy cause in their community.
Over the years, Lynn’s involvement with the Lustgarten Foundation has grown, and her positive energy is contagious! In her office waiting room, she hangs Walk signage and has buckets for collecting donations. Plus, ever since she was a child, she has loved baking brownies for every holiday and special family occasion, and it was inevitable that her enthusiasm for baking brownies and for fundraising for the Lustgarten Foundation would intersect. To her, a box of brownies is like a box of love; even though they’re brownies from a mix, she has a special way of cutting and wrapping them up according to the occasion. In 2022, her Team ProHEALTH Pediatrics started fundraising efforts months before the Long Island Walk. She started making holiday-themed brownie boxes and selling them at work. They were a success with the children and families in Lynn’s practice, and she sold hundreds of boxes over several months in addition to other holiday-themed treats. With the help of the staff at the Lake Success and Oceanside Pediatrics offices, and the generous donations from family and friends, Lynn’s team raised over $15,000 and was named a “Team of Vision.”
Lynn’s best friend, Dr. Veronica Zamora-Campos, also a pediatrician, has been significantly impacted by pancreatic cancer as well. Her father was diagnosed in 2016 and passed away in 2017. This year, Lynn has deepened her connection with the Lustgarten Foundation by becoming a Mission Ambassador and working closely with Lustgarten leadership and Veronica to organize the inaugural Lustgarten Foundation’s San Antonio Walk for Pancreatic Cancer Research. The Walk is scheduled for Saturday, November 4 at the Mays Cancer Center where Veronica’s dad was treated. Pancreatic cancer has sadly bonded the lifelong friends even more closely.
“Veronica’s dad passed away 31 years after my father, and yet he only lived four months longer post-diagnosis than my father did. This has to change,” urged Lynn. “If we don’t raise more money, how will we ever move forward with funding enough research to make advancements against this disease and give patients and their families the gift of more time?”
Besides medicine, raising awareness and research funding for pancreatic cancer is Lynn’s true calling, and she feels fulfilled by doing something to benefit others. “Pancreatic cancer has left an open wound in my life, but through the Lustgarten Foundation, I have found a community of passionate individuals who are working hard to find a cure for this life-threatening disease,” shared Lynn. “I wish my dad were here to see all the progress made possible by the Lustgarten Foundation and by everyone who donates, and my own commitment to turning my grief into action. He’d be so thankful and say, ‘I’m not surprised.’”