Fred Gersh … Requiescat in pace

Most readers of this column will never have heard of Fred Gersh; a few may have spoken to him or e-mailed him or actually met him. Fred passed away early this morning as a consequence of metastatic, castration- and chemotherapy-refractory disease 23 years after his initial diagnosis with prostate cancer.

Fred was a tireless advocate for prostate cancer, working with and through the Virginia Prostate Cancer Coalition, the National Prostate Cancer Coalition, Us TOO International, ZERO — The Project to End Prostate Cancer, and most recently the Prostate Cancer Roundtable.

He had not been well for a while. Two and a half weeks ago he became very ill and was briefly confined to hospital before being able to return home on hospice care.

In a message to some of the long-time members of the prostate cancer advocacy community, his wife Micki wrote that Fred “had a long fight with the prostate cancer and I think in a way you could say he won since it has been 23 years since he was diagnosed.”

Fred was a good man who worked hard for everyone at risk for and diagnosed with prostate cancer here in America and around the world. He will be much missed.

10 Responses

  1. How old was he?

  2. Dear Gus:

    I never asked him. My guess would be that he was in his early 70s.

  3. Fred was the leader of an Us TOO chapter in Alexandria, Virginia, for many years, but I came to know him as a fellow director of the Virginia Prostate Cancer Coalition. He served as our vice chairman for a time. His wife Micki also helped us out. Recently she crafted two beautiful display table coverings for use at exhibit events.

    He will be remembered for his passionate commitment to our cause. On the lighter side, he will also be remembered for the origami birds he would fashion quickly and give out to many of us. Some of us will also recall his visor around the full head of hair he had while undergoing chemo. Before we could remark on how well he was tolerating the chemo, he would doff the visor and wig with a big grin to reveal his bald head. If you remember someone doing that at the IMPaCT conference last year, that was Fred.

    He will be missed!

  4. Since Fred enjoyed such a long survival period after his initial diagnosis, it my be encouraging to others if we knew what his original diagnosis was. I am guessing that since it was 23 years ago he had initially presented with clinically advanced disease. This story is encouraging no matter what his initial diagnosis.

  5. He was 76 but you would never know it. We called him the Energizer Bunny. He was a tireless worker and a good friend.

    Several years ago he had a friend from Maine who served on a boat in Vietnam and patrolled the rivers. He was upset because his friend could not get a VA disability because he could not prove he had boots on the ground. Fred decided that that was wrong and it became one of his missions. He would call me regularly for advice and I am sure that he reached out to others also. He got involved with Veterans groups, He stirred it up and eventually with the help of others he made a difference. I wish that were many more men who had Fred’s passion to make a difference for other men.

  6. Yes Chris he did have a high Gleason score.

    He seemed to believe the more advocacy he did the more he could hold the cancer in check. Maybe that was part of keeping him alive. He had too much to do to die. He also took time to be part of his family. He and his wife would travel to visit his sons and grandchildren. He learned origami with his granddaughter. He kept paper with him at all times and gave birds to many, many people. Taxotere took a real toll on him and just prior to ending the chemo he thought that he was dying but he did not give up doing what he could do. Here is a link to a tribute about his works with vets.

  7. RIP. Striking how much energy Fred displayed. I did not know him. My impression from reading and my deceased father’s 14-year course of treatment is that hormone therapy is widely administered on biochemical failure after primary treatment, and frequently has debilitating side effects. It would be interesting to know Fred’s course of treatment in light of his remarkable energy. (Not that we otherwise anonymous readers have any particular right to that personal information.)

  8. I am sorry, I made a mistake. Fred was 75. He would have been 76 in May.

  9. Thank you Fred for your life dedicated to eradicating this awful disease. God will bless you for your work!

  10. Fred was one of a kind. I had worked with him occasionally at health fairs, screenings, etc. His origami creations never failed to entrance all of us, especially the little kids. The last time I saw him was at a DC Cancer Consortium meeting, which was yet another opportunity for him to [interact] with other groups in the fight against cancer. It was not until I had known Fred for several years that I discovered that he and I had been stationed at the same air base in Vietnam but at different times.

    I, along with many others in the DC area will miss him.

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