Fun day at Natural Bridges.

Gail Cahn Gail Cahn's Odyssey

First post: Nov 29, 2018 Latest post: Mar 27, 2019
Gail passed away, March 24th at 12:30 a.m. surrounded by her immediate family. She waited until all of us could be together before letting go. Gail fought as hard as she could, but at the end she just wanted to be cared for at home and go peacefully on her own terms. True to herself, she did just that. We are devastated, but relieved that she is no longer suffering.  Thanks for your support 
during this difficult time.


Caregiving for Gail Cahn’s Spinal Cancer Battle

Having cancer is bad enough...fighting cancer that paralyzed you is a huge double whammy...

Gail and Mark Cahn have spent the past 30 years of their lives as dedicated high school science teachers at Willow Glen, Kehillah, Lincoln, and Leland High Schools. They have taught thousands of students and changed the course of countless lives. They are huge outdoor enthusiasts who have spent their lives camping, canoeing rivers and the Boundary Waters, hiking, backpacking, and always (always!) volunteering with Scouts.

Now they are facing the biggest challenge of their lives...and they need your help!

In September Gail started experiencing back pain and was being treated for muscle spasms.

If only.

By November the pain became unbearable and the doctors suspected a compressed disc.

If only.

Tests were scheduled, but by mid-November Gail’s left leg became numb, and just days afterwards, Gail became paralyzed from the waist down. Mark rushed her to the hospital, where they discovered cancerous tumors on her spine that were pressing on her spinal cord. The situation was dire, and emergency surgery was performed to stabilize her spine.  

Turns out doctors recommended not starting radiation or chemo after spinal surgery as the bones needed time to heal. So the focus was on rehab. Gail was transferred to the Acute Spinal Rehab Unit at Valley Med for a serious course of PT and OT. Gail and Mark were feeling positive.

But cancer is very inconsiderate - it doesn’t wait for you to recover from surgery or to get final biopsy reports just keeps growing.

And growing a heck of a lot faster than anyone suspected.

New tumors developed in a different area on Gail’s spine which resulted in losing feeling in her left arm and most of her right arm. Gail was immediately put on a ten day course of radiation in the hope that the tumors would shrink.

Again, If only.

It took two months(!!) to get a final diagnosis, sarcoma,  a very rare type of cancer that has metastasized throughout Gail’s spine and pelvis. It’s not curable. But, with chemotherapy it is treatable. Chemo treatment finally starts on February 21st  and will continue every 4 weeks until...well...that’s a huge TBD.

Thanks a lot, sarcoma.

Gail was hospitalized for a total of 75 days. She is now home, but requires 24/7 care. She is in a wheelchair and cannot stand, walk, or transfer in/out of the wheelchair without assistance. She needs help with personal hygiene, dressing, taking medications, preparing meals, stretching and exercises, and transportation to doctor appointments.

Sidebar note to the paralysis...doctors expect it will take about 18 months before they know whether she will be able to fully walk again or regain full use of her arms. That means that

Gail needs a full time caregiver during the week while Mark is at work. And in case you were wondering, insurance doesn’t cover in-home care.

Thanks, insurance company. You never cease to fail us. Way to go.

Trained caregivers are expensive. The fee for one month is $5,280.00. That’s more than Gail brought home each month on her teacher’s salary! 18 months at that price, and they are looking at a total of $95,040.00. And that’s only for the cost of the caregiver!!

It’s highly doubtful that Gail will be able to go back to work again. They will be down to one teacher’s salary instead of two. In the Bay Area. With two children in college. With a mortgage, and everyday bills. And a caregiver.

If only it was “just” cancer.

That’s where you come in. They need your help. These two amazingly dedicated, lifelong teachers are in a canoe without a paddle in very unchartered waters.

Please donate to Gail’s caregiving fund for however much you can, so that Mark can go to work knowing that Gail has someone at home to provide care and help her regain strength...and at some point, independence.

Here’s the GoFundMe link:

Feel free to pass the link around on email, Facebook, Twitter...Gail and Mark need all the help they can get!!!

If you would rather make a direct donation, please contact Mark directly:

You can also email Gail:

They need all of the community support they can get. Thanks for helping!

Gail and Mark's friends

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