LAPD Sergeant Doesn't Walk Alone
Fellow Officers Gathered Daily for Six Weeks to Escort Neil Wank to Radiation Treatments—Part of His Battle Against Aggressive Brain Cancer
Every day for six weeks, Neil Wank, a 26-year Los Angeles Police Department veteran who in December was diagnosed with an aggressive type of brain cancer called glioblastoma, was escorted down the long hallway leading to the Cedars-Sinai Cancer radiation therapy facility by his wife, Nikki, and 10 to 20 of his fellow officers.
But on Feb. 9—his final radiation treatment—more than 50 officers, family members and friends were on hand to escort the recently retired officer as he rang a “good-luck bell” to signify the end of this part of his cancer journey. They carried a banner reading “In this family, no one fights alone.”
“Every single day that he's been here, he's been flanked by police officers that he's worked with throughout his years in the community,” said Jethro Hu, MD, associate professor of Medicine, Neurology and Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai and Wank’s neuro-oncologist. “They've walked him down the hall to get radiation treatment and walked him back after the treatment was over.”
Wank said it was the dedication of the Cedars-Sinai staff—and the commitment of his fellow officers—that got him through the past few months. But the bell ringing, he said, was really a celebration of greater good and service to the community.
“It is an absolute honor and privilege to be amongst all of you and to see the dedication over these past six weeks, culminating in this final event today,” Wank said at the gathering. “We are going to cautiously optimistically ring that bell knowing that the battle is not over, but this small victory will be celebrated. And it’s being celebrated because all of you have been doing the heavy lifting to make sure I get down that hallway every single day, making sure that we have never been alone.”
After surgery Dec. 21 to remove as much of the tumor as was safe, Wank received 42 days of chemotherapy along with 30 sessions of radiation therapy with radiation oncologist Behrooz Hakimian, MD. He also is participating in a clinical trial, and will be monitored going forward for signs that the cancer might be returning.
“Clinical trials are an important part of treatment for many patients with aggressive forms of cancer,” said Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD, director of Cedars-Sinai Cancer and the PHASE ONE Distinguished Chair. “These trials help us discover new opportunities to advance cancer research and to develop therapies that improve outcomes for patients.”
Hu said he has been inspired by the fact that Wank understands what he is up against, but hasn’t let that change his attitude.
“Glioblastoma is not an easy diagnosis,” Hu said. “I think for Neil to take something that’s so private, so personal, and so devastating in so many ways and to turn it into this thing that’s a positive, that brings light, that inspires a community to all come together, it says everything you need to know about him. We’re here for him every step of the way.”
Wank’s ultimate goal is to move with Nikki to the home they recently purchased in Florida.
“We are sprinting to that finish line today,” he said, “feeling stronger and better than when we started.”
Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: A Trial for Every Brain Tumor