Bath Home Serves as Support, Stop in ‘Journey of Hope’
By Emily Chesnic
Dave Fleischer and Lisa Craine are pictured above displaying the banner created to recognize the life of Fleischer’s daughter.
BATH — A New Jersey father traveling through the U.S. to raise awareness of a rare cancer pulled up to a Bath home June 1 to visit a cancer survivor and park to refuel on hope, which he continues to spread along his 15,000-mile, 40-day trek.
Dave Fleischer’s daughter, Sarah Bennett, died in 2018 from cholangiocarcinoma, also known as bile duct cancer — the same cancer that almost took the life of Bath resident Lisa Craine, not once, but three times. To honor his daughter and her over four-year fight against the cancer — including surgeries, chemotherapy and clinical trials — Fleischer, who is retired, is serving as the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation’s “Ambassador of Hope,” officially embarking on his “Journey of Hope” earlier this month. He also is making the trip in recognition of the nonprofit’s 15-year anniversary.
Fleischer said he is visiting “warriors” of the cancer and caregivers who were important to his daughter. One of his planned stops was to see Craine, who was a friend to his daughter, and speak with Ohioans who are fighting against cholangiocarcinoma.
Craine lined the walkway of her home with photographs of those from the area who lost their lives to the often-fatal cancer. Her visual tribute included a large banner honoring the life of Bennett, who was responsible for creating an online community for those facing cholangiocarcinoma, providing encouragement to many on their toughest days.
Craine, a wife and mother, met Bennett, who was 31 when she was diagnosed with the disease, at a conference after being diagnosed herself and credits the young wife and mother for brightening her saddest and scariest times while being treated for the cancer.
“She brought us together through a Facebook page just for patients. She shared information and provided us with love and support,” Craine said of Bennett. “Despite the disease, she still found laughter. She lit up a room and really was an angel.”
Craine was diagnosed with stage 4 cholangiocarcinoma in 2010, when her two sons were 13 and 18 years old.
“I was told at that time I had six months live and to go make memories with my boys,” she said.
She sought a second opinion at the Cleveland Clinic, meeting with Dr. John Fung and gaining hope. She then went through an 11-and-a-half-hour surgery to remove 75 percent of her liver. She received 14 units of blood and spent a week in the intensive care unit. Craine said she then went through six months of chemotherapy to rid her body of the cancer.
Not quite three months after her first occurrence of the cancer, it came back. She then had 35 percent of her remaining liver removed during another lengthy surgery, as well as six more months of chemotherapy.
Craine has had several recurrences of the cancer and turned to a radiation treatment called stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) when chemotherapy became unsuccessful.
Shown above, the sidewalk of Bath resident Lisa Craine’s home was lined with photographs of some of those who have died of cholangiocarcinoma, a bile duct cancer. Her home was one of the stops on the “Journey of Hope,” taking place on the 15-year anniversary of the creation of the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation, a nonprofit organization working to find a cure and improve the quality of life of those impacted by the disease.
Like Bennett did, Craine now supports others diagnosed with the rare disease, even offering to house and transport individuals from out-of-town seeking treatment at the Cleveland Clinic.
She has had no evidence of the cancer for six years, using much of her time now to support others diagnosed by praying with them, listening to their concerns, offering advice and serving as a patient advocate when a new treatment option is needed.
“Mentoring has become my passion,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to feel alone on this journey.”
She officially started Craine’s Cholangiocarcinoma Crew, a nonprofit raising funds for bile duct cancer research.
Fleischer, too, is raising funds for continued research through the “Journey of Hope” and telling those he meets along the way about his daughter and the “inner strength” she displayed while battling cholangiocarcinoma.
“It is so important for these individuals not to lose hope. They do want to know there are others out there like them, fighting this,” he said. “Meeting with special people like Lisa spurs me to continue on.”
After breakfast and taking time to encourage members of Craine’s Cholangiocarcinoma Crew, Fleischer got back into his Honda — painted green for the color used for cholangiocarcinoma awareness — to continue his mission.
After visiting 48 states and stopping in 15 communities named “Hope,” Fleischer plans to end his trek June 29 in Salt Lake City.
For more information on Craine’s Cholangiocarcinoma Crew, visit www.crainescancercure.org, and for more information on the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation, visit cholangiocarcinoma.org.
Lisa Craine, a cholangiocarcinoma survivor shown at center, and participants in her nonprofit, Craine’s Cholangiocarcinoma Crew, are pictured above June 1 welcoming Dave Fleischer, of New Jersey, who is shown next to her. Fleisher’s daughter died of cholangiocarcinoma in 2018 and he is participating in “Journey of Hope” to draw attention to the rare cancer, raise funds for continued research and honor her life.
Photos: Emily Chesnic