Loved ones of radio personalities Wease, Beck battling cancer
Barry Beck talks for a living, as host of the "Kimberly and Beck Show," weekday afternoons on Radio 95.1.
Alan "Brother Wease" Levin also talks for a living, weekday mornings, on the same radio station.
Often, the topic of their talk is what's going on in their personal lives. And never has that conversation been harder than it is right now.
In January, Beck's longtime girlfriend was diagnosed with colon cancer. Tina Fleming, 55, was symptom-free when she went in for a routine mammogram. That's why the cancer was such a surprise to Fleming, who works as a nurse at Strong Memorial Hospital.
Fleming began treatment in January, and the prognosis is good. The cancer was caught early. But the surprises weren't over. Last week, Fleming was out for a late afternoon walk near her home in Fairport, when she went into cardiac arrest.
"This has shaken me to the core," says Beck, who believes if Tina had not gone for that walk, she would not have survived.
"Had she stayed home, she'd have been laying on the floor for two hours," says Beck, who usually gets home from work around 7:30. Instead, a FedEx driver spotted Tina lying in the snow, and called 9-1-1. A Perinton ambulance crew arrived within six minutes Beck says, and she was revived.
Alan and Doreen Levin have their own "what if" story. Doreen is diligent about getting regular mammograms. She also insists on ultrasounds because doctors had told her she had dense breast tissue, making tumors more difficult to spot on a mammogram.
Doreen Levin had her annual mammogram and the ultrasound on her birthday, December 26th, 2015. She also saw her OB-GYN for a physical around that time. There was no indication of cancer. Doreen admits she is not as devoted as she should be to monthly self-exams, but it was her own hand that found the lump just two weeks ago. Given a range of options, she chose a double mastectomy. Doreen says she was inspired by the story of Angelina Jolie, the actress who chose to have both breasts removed because of a genetic risk, even though she did not have cancer.
Wease, himself a cancer survivor, says he'd trade places with his wife if he could.
"This was bad," Wease says. "A mommy, who lives everything for her kids. She over-mommies the kids, loves them to death. When I started thinking my 'Bubby' could be gone, I'm going 'I'm done.' She's my everything."
For Doreen, who's resting at home with Wease and an army of friends giving care, says she's waiting for a report confirming that her cancer didn't spread to her lymph nodes. The first report post-surgery was encouraging.
Her message to women is to not be complacent. As Doreen learned, even a mammogram and ultrasound did not detect her cancer. She says when doctors remind you of the importance of self-exams, listen and obey.
Tina Fleming's tale is also cautionary. She wants everyone to know the importance of getting a colonoscopy. The screening caught her cancer early. Doctors say it is treatable, and curable.
Barry Beck says Tina has given him carte blanche to talk about her cancer on the air.
"This is going to inspire a lot of people to get a colonoscopy because she had no symptoms. She said talk about it as much as you want."
It's believed that Fleming's cardiac arrest was connected in some way to her cancer treatments. (In one of those "you can't make this stuff up" coincidences, Fleming ended up in the URMC Catheter Lab where she worked as a nurse for a decade. The medical professionals who treated her there were also good friends. Fleming now works in cardiac rehab.)
Wease and Beck now have more in common than radio careers, call letters and a 401(k) plan. They have new, very personal stories to tell. And as difficult as it is to share them, both know how important it is to put those stories out there.