Every Crisis Presents An Opportunity
Judge Jacob Jager
It’s a beautiful day in San Clemente. The kind of day that might
usually be spent fishing with the grandkids off his boat in Dana Point
Harbor, but for retired Judge Jacob Jager, those boating days are on hold
as he finishes his post-operative radiation treatments. While the Judge
enjoys the view surrounded by his gracious family, wife Norma, daughter
Tammy, and grandsons Ashton and Hunter, he continues to wage a determined
battle against malignant pleural mesothelioma. Although his radiation
treatments have taken 35 pounds off his athletic frame, Judge Jager still
commands the room and positively lights up for his delightful grandsons.
Judge Jager continued to lead an active and fulfilling lifestyle, but in
April of 2010, the Judge began to experience trouble breathing and sought
medical help. In August, severe chest pains finally lead to a battery
of tests revealing a right-sided pleural effusion with an underlying right
lung consolidation. A mass was also noted. In October, a tissue biopsy
and thoracentesis confirmed malignant mesothelioma.
That diagnosis began a family commitment, spearheaded by daughter Tammy,
to find the best possible care and treatment available. Like her father,
Tammy possesses the intellect and tenacity to not only educate herself
on this type of cancer, but to explore all possible treatments throughout
the United States. Both father and daughter are native Californians, and
their love for the West Coast escalated even more when they learned that
most East Coast mesothelioma surgeons promoted a radical surgery in which
the entire lung among other vital body parts were amputated.
It was Judge Jager’s originating oncologist, Dr. Lloyd Nagasawa,
who first mentioned thoracic surgeon, Dr. Robert Cameron of UCLA Medical
School. Since 1994, Dr. Cameron has been a pioneer of the “pleurectomy and decortication (P/D) procedure,” the goal of which is to remove all visible tumor and spare the
underlying lung. He has performed over 300 of these “rational”
With her usual diligence, Tammy researched both the procedure and Dr. Cameron.
The family warmed to the idea that Dr. Cameron’s procedure was designed
to spare the lung, since Judge Jager’s lung was functioning normally.
They learned that, while the procedure is much less "radical"
for the patient, it is a more lengthy and difficult procedure for the
surgeon. They believed that Dr. Cameron's commitment to this procedure,
which is designed to afford patients a much better quality of life with
use of both lungs, speaks volumes about Dr. Cameron's dedication to
But most of all, they appreciated Dr. Cameron’s medical philosophy.
As Tammy put it, “Dr. Cameron treats mesothelioma as a chronic disease
– something that can be treated and managed with the ultimate goal
of prolonging and increasing the quality of life. A ‘cure’
sounds great, but unfortunately from what I know about meso it’s
unrealistic at this stage.”
When they met with Dr. Cameron, Tammy was positive that they had made the
right choice. She recalled that Dr. Cameron very patiently and candidly
set out the nuts and bolts of his procedure without sugar-coating it.
The Judge and Tammy felt reassured. “We had great confidence in
him from the beginning-- truly a brilliant man,” gushed Judge Jager.
In November, Dr. Cameron operated on the Judge. Like any major surgery,
recovery was not without its hiccups. But through it all, the family’s
will remained strong. The experience, instead of a dark and foreboding
cloud that brought everyone down, showed that with the right blend of
medical expertise, a solid strategy, perseverance and abiding hope, a
medical crisis can also help bind the family ties even tighter.
San Clemente, CA