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Lifelong Cincinnatian's Fight With Mesothelioma


Fifty-three years ago, Cincinnatian Jack Crable and seven of his pals decided they would all join the Army. In January of 1949, they all did it, too, together. In June of 1950, at the outbreak of the Korean War, five of them ended up getting shipped out to South Korea. One who did not go to South Korea was Joe Grever, who claims he was ordered to the French Riviera. Joe laughs now when he remembers complaining, "You don't understand, the deal was me and my buddies were supposed to be kept together" -- as if the Army would care.


Six months later, Jack Crable was freezing in what is now North Korea; he would have given anything for the Riviera's warmth. Like many of his generation, Jack doesn't complain. He also tends to shrug off past honors as "no big deal", so he doesn't volunteer that he was awarded the Purple Heart for "scrapes and cuts" he got when he was thrown from a jeep during battle, and he doesn't like talking about what happened around Christmastime, 1950.

Cpl. Jack Crable

In early December, his company was north of the 38th Parallel, and Jack developed a severe infection in his ears in the bitter cold; he learned later that the infection developed because his eardrums had somehow been perforated. Jack was sleeping with only his field hat, clothes, boots, blanket and a pup tent for warmth in the 15 to 20 degree air. He would tie his field hat up at night, and when he untied it in the morning, pus would just come out of his ears. He reached the point where he could no longer function as a soldier.

At the same time, the Red Chinese Army invaded Korea, and the U.S. forces retreated en masse to the south. Jack could not be evacuated by air because of his condition. He was hospitalized in South Korea for a few weeks and was then shipped to Japan, where he remained hospitalized for another 30 days. He was transferred stateside to a hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan. His condition failed to improve, and his doctors asked Jack if he felt he would get better if he went home. Jack was very sick but said he would try, and he received a medical discharge from the Army in October, 1951.


Jack's strength returned when he came home to Cincinnati and wove his way back into a thick fabric of family and friends. Within a few months he was working again, as a laborer and asbestos worker at construction sites in the area. He married Joan on June 4, 1955. About a year and three weeks later, the Crables had their first child, a son, Richard. On March 8, 1957, they bought their first home. They still live in that home in Cincinnati today.

After Richard, there was a new Crable baby about every two years -- Ann, Robert, Margaret, Susan, and William -- and finally, about five years after William, Jeffrey. Seven Crable children in all grew up in this modest but immaculately kept home. Jack worked hard to provide. From the late 1950s until the end of the 60s, he ran his own business, a tire and automotive repair shop. As the 70s rolled on, the Crable children started leaving the house, but it wasn't long before the onslaught of "the second wave", the grandchildren. So far, the Crables have 13, and today the toys and play-saucer of the latest infant commandeer a living room corner.


Cpl. Jack Crable, member of the 25th Infantry, 35th Regiment Baseball Team 1949

Jack and Joan are equally proud of all their children, of what kind of people they have become. Each has overcome adversity of some kind through perseverance.

Their oldest Rick attended parochial grade school, as did all of his brothers and sisters. He played college basketball for Brunswick (Georgia) Junior College and Northern Kentucky University. He works as a salesman for Vision Embroidery, which purchased a sportswear company originally founded by his little brother Bob. In his spare time, Rick helps coach basketball. The Crables' second, Ann, graduated from Miami of Ohio and works as a certified public accountant. She and her husband have three children. Her daughter played field hockey, as she did.

Bob anchored the defense of the Cincinnati Moeller High football teams coached by the legendary Gerry Faust. The team he played on went undefeated from 1975 to 1977, and won two mythical national high school championships. He was a three-time All-American at linebacker at Notre Dame. He played pro football for seven years for the New York Jets. In 1992, Bob went back to Moeller High as a part-time religion teacher. He still teaches religion at Moeller, and for the last two years has served as head coach of the football team there. Bob and his wife have four children.

Jack's son, Bob Crable, #43, soars high above the line of scrimmage to block the potential game winning field goal, preserving ninth-ranked Notre Dame's victory over sixth-ranked Michigan.

Jack's favorite memory of Bob playing ball would have to be the 1979 Notre Dame at Michigan game. With less than two minutes to play, the ninth-ranked Irish were up by two points and the sixth-ranked Wolverines were lining up on the 20 yard line for an attempt at a game-winning field goal. The 100,000 fans were going nuts right up to the moment when Bob jumped onto a Michigan player's back and reached up to block the field goal, at which point the stadium fell deathly silent.

Jack and Joan's fourth child, Peggy, took a business course in high school and went straight to work for AT&T. She has remained and risen with the company, which brought her to Boston to work. She and her husband have two children. The fifth child, Susan, ran track for Mt. Notre Dame. She works as a real estate paralegal in a law firm and has also coached soccer at St. Vincent's Elementary, the parochial school she and her siblings attended.

The sixth child, William, played defensive end at Moeller High. He is built like his father, smallish for football, but Jack says pound-for-pound he was the best defensive football player on his team. He went on to attend the University of Cincinnati and to found his own accounting firm. William is married with one child.

Jeffrey, the seventh and youngest, grew to about six foot three, and went on to start at linebacker for Moeller High his junior and senior years. He got a football scholarship to attend Ball State. After being redshirted his freshman season, Jeffrey came home to his parents and asked his parents, "Would you mind if I don't play football?" Of course his parents did not mind, and Jeffrey worked his way through Xavier, graduating summa cum laude with a degree in psychology. He works as a sales manager with a real estate firm. He is married with three children.


The Crable's wedding day.

Jack was at work in February, 2002 when he suddenly became violently ill and began vomiting. He was rushed to the emergency room and hospitalized with a working diagnosis of pneumonia. He had several CT scans taken which over time showed abnormalities. A CT scan taken on March 15, 2002 showed extensive pleural thickening on the right side and multiple calcified pleural plaques consistent with asbestos exposure.

On April 9, 2002, Jack underwent a thoracotomy with pleural biopsy at University Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. Immunohistochemical staining upon tissue harvested from a right pleural mass resulted in a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma, epithelial type.

" Cancer." "Incurable." Jack, his wife, his whole family were shocked.

Jack's doctors at the V.A. referred him to Dr. Harvey Pass of the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, Michigan. Dr. Pass is one of the foremost surgeons in the world treating mesothelioma and Chairman of the Science Advisory Board of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF), a nonprofit corporation whose mission is the eradication of mesothelioma as a life-ending disease.

Jack met with Dr. Pass, who explained that the tumor was infiltrating the lung as well as the pleural space. He advised Jack that his tumor was Stage II and that he would not be a good candidate for extra-pleural pneumonectomy, and suggested chemotherapy.

The Crables next contacted Dr. Nicholas Vogelzang and Dr. Hedy Kindler at the University of Chicago Cancer Research Center. Drs. Vogelzang and Kindler are also renowned treaters of mesothelioma and members of MARF. However, when the Crables learned that the trials offered at Chicago were random and blind, they declined participation.

Jack and Joan Crable, with their family.

Jack met with Dr. John R. Pancoast at the V.A. on May 7. Dr. Pancoast offered three cycles of Gemzar and Cisplatin. (One cycle consists of three weeks on chemotherapy, one week off). In addition to the usual side effects of nausea and hair loss, Dr. Pancoast warned that this chemotherapy might further damage Jack's already poor hearing; Jack has "profound" (more than 50 percent) loss of hearing in the right ear, and 30 percent in the left. When Jack considered the side effects and the opinion of his doctors at the V.A. that the cancer is in both lungs, he rejected this treatment option. Because Alimta would currently be locally available only on a "compassionate use" basis in combination with Cisplatin, Jack rejected this treatment option as well. Instead, Jack has chosen "watchful waiting", pursuing no treatment while carefully monitoring his health.


Since his diagnosis, Jack has grown increasingly short of breath. He's still able to help out some around the house, but not like he used to, and not like he wants to. His family and friends have drawn closer to Jack, the quintessential "good guy."

Jack has changed one thing since his diagnosis. Before, he was at church every Sunday. Now he's there every day. He thanks God for each and every new day with his family. He prays for more time, for healing, for a cure for this terrible disease to come as suddenly and miraculously as that moment in Ann Arbor, Notre Dame-Michigan 1979, when another Crable rose up against all odds and blocked defeat.

*** POSTED SEPTEMBER 17, 2002 ***

An Update -- 6/17/03

Over the winter Jack broke his leg when he slipped on a patch of ice. His doctor told him the leg would not have broken had it not been for the knee replacement.

Jack has chosen "careful watching" as his treatment plan. He says he does not know if it was the right choice but knows that life has been good and he hated the thought of being sick all the time from any chemotherapy treatments. He's feeling pretty good. His shortness of breath has increased and as a result of his broken leg he cannot walk for any extended length of time. He just had a chest scan which revealed there is tumor growth in his right lung but it's minimal - his doctor is pleased about that.

He had a wonderful Father's Day and enjoyed a Red's game in their new stadium. He says all he can do is keep going until he can't go any more and only hope that his mesothelioma will just go away.

Mr. Jack Crable passed away on March 17, 2004