The mission of The Woiner Foundation is to fight melanoma and pancreatic cancer by increasing awareness, supporting patients, survivors and families and fundraising for research. Learn about the doctors, researchers and programs we support by clicking here.
Both melanoma and pancreatic cancer are severely under-researched and under-funded. Survival rates for pancreatic cancer have remained in the single digits for more than 40 years. Just 2-10 percent of those diagnosed survive five years. Melanoma is the fastest growing cancer in the United States and worldwide. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
The Woiner Family
The Woiner Foundation was created in 2013 by Jessica Woiner Fera, in memory of her dad, Tim Woiner, and in honor of her mom, Rita. Jessica is committed to supporting research and awareness initiatives in their honor, and in the honor of her husband, Ric, who is a two-time melanoma survivor.
Learn more about our story and our main fundraising event, the 3-2-1 Ride, by watching this video created by UPMC Cancer Centers.
Tim never used a tanning bed and he never had a blistering sun burn, but he died of metastatic melanoma on April 4, 2010 at age 59 after a three-year battle with the disease.
Tim loved his family, loved his work, and he truly enjoyed and appreciated life. His life was taken too soon, and he would tell anyone who would listen about the importance of having regular skin exams by a dermatologist.
His wife felt the deadly mole on his side as she was helping him tuck in a shirt. He told his dermatologist at Hillman Cancer Center that he always had a mole in that spot, and that it must have changed in just a few months. When she removed it, she knew just by looking at it that it was a life-threatening case of melanoma. It was raised above the skin, very dark with color variations, and was surrounded by a red border. The pathology report revealed it was stage 3 melanoma.
In the three years that followed Tim had numerous surgeries, chemotherapy, Interferon and radiation treatments and participated in clinical trials as the cancer spread to his lung, liver, spine and brain. Nothing could stop it, but through all of the pain and suffering, he fought with a bravery and positive spirit that inspired many. He never complained, never stopped smiling and never lost the will to live.
Our family never thought, and Tim never thought, that a mole would take his life. Have your skin checked, watch for changes and enjoy each and every day you are given.
Eight months after losing her husband to melanoma, Rita was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age 58. While the exact causes of this terrible disease are not yet well understood, none of the risk factors applied to Rita, and doctors believe it could’ve been brought on by stress.
Rita knew something was wrong after eating a steak, something she rarely did, when she was out to dinner with family. In the days that followed, she felt very sick and began to develop jaundice.
Initially, her primary care physician thought it was a problem with her gallbladder, but a scan revealed a very small tumor that had developed near her bile duct. Many times pancreatic cancer isn’t detected until the very late stages, but because of the tumor’s location, Rita’s tumor was found in stage 1a.
After a course of chemo and radiation treatment, Rita had the Whipple procedure, performed by Dr. Arthur Moser and Dr. Herbert Zeh, at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Centers. The surgery was a great success and Rita was declared cancer free.
In January 2013, during a routine checkup, several small tumors were found in Rita’s lungs. During the year that followed she received treatment at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, UPMC and traveled to Johns Hopkins and Scottsdale Healthcare/TGEN. Her course of treatment included combination chemotherapy along with several experimental treatments with which she had great success, but for too short of a time.
For three and a half years, Rita fought a courageous and inspiring battle, and her journey reminds us to never lose hope. On April 26, 2014, Rita was called to be with her husband Tim, in heaven. In her final days she made her family promise to continue working to help other families and to find a cure.