Natalie Sabga recently started a one-man fight against pancreatic cancer, a disease that spares no one.
“It robs the patient of body, soul, mind and eventually dignity,” says the young widow of John Edmond Sabga, who, at the age of 56 lost a ten-month battle with pancreatic cancer in January. After putting her beloved husband to rest on January 31, the bereaved woman has devoted her time to assist in defying the odds and beating this deadly disease. She launched the John E Sabga Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer on World Pancreatic Awareness Day, November 16, at Prime Restaurant, BHP Billiton building, Invader’s Bay, Port of Spain.
Leading up to the event, which was attended by President Anthony Carmona, Natalie had decorated the restaurants with which her husband was associated, Trotters, Buzo, Prime, Panini Cafe and Sticky Bones in purple – the colour for pancreatic cancer awareness – and all staff wore purple and white T-shirts with words and badges in memory of their late boss.
His son Matthew described him as “a remarkable man who gave a little something to each of us, whether it was love, friendship, guidance, help or otherwise. He was a man who faithfully lived by his values, a man who possessed absolutely no enemies, the most down to earth person you could ever wish to meet. My father had a fundamental respect for all people, regardless of their age, race, background or social standing; he was always there to offer a moment or more.”
The guest speaker at the launch was Michael Bassoff, president of Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) Foundation in the United States. Professor at TGen, Dr Daniel Von Hoff, was one of the specialists who had treated John in Miami, Houston and Dallas. Dr Von Hoff and his team were the final ray of hope for John at their clinic in Honorhealth, Scottsdale, Arizona. “Here he received unprecedented treatment with patience, love, kindness, understanding, compassion and humility. Like none we had experienced anywhere else,” Natalie said.
“Should we have gone somewhere else?” Natalie said was the recurring question. “I get the same devastating results over and over again. Seventy one per cent of people will die within the first year. That is just not fair. We have to act quickly. We have to make purple the new pink…We owe it to our loved ones and those battling this disease to wage war on their behalf and knock that pink ribbon to second place on the finish line. Unless you journey with a loved one through this disease…or any cancer for that matter…You have no clue of how horrible this disease is.”
Pink is the colour of breast cancer awareness.
Bassoff applauded Natalie for her “leadership”, which he said is needed in the battle against this dreaded disease, where statistics have remained mostly unchanged in four years and life expectancy after diagnosis is about three to six months. “This is about the world,” Bassoff said. “There are T-Gen centres around the world. Let’s get Trinidad and Tobago involved. Let’s get behind this foundation. Let’s not wait. Let’s take action now. Let’s stop it right now.”
An immediate goal of the foundation is the John E Sabga clinical trial for pancreatic cancer, one of six clinical trials in TGen’s final assault initiative being conducted in Arizona.
Advances against the disease made possible by the Sabga clinical trial, and any of the five trials which are part of the final assault will immediately be available to patients in TT.
Matthew Sabga, Derrick Lewis, Kern Crosby, Amado Duarte, Professor Anne Marie Bissessar and Helen Yousef, who had all recently lost loved ones to pancreatic cancer, were invited to light candles in their remembrance, while Kevon Carter and Tricia Lee Kelshall paid vocal tribute. The evening ended with cocktails at Prime Restaurant.