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County Treasurer Ira Cohen is back home after surgery for pancreatic cancer.

Cohen back home with excellent prognosis

By Dan Hust
WOLF LAKE — July 20, 2010 — Back from the hospital since Friday, Sullivan County Treasurer Ira Cohen is steadily recovering from yet another major surgery.
Speaking yesterday from his Wolf Lake home, Cohen confirmed he is making rapid progress in the wake of the July 7 removal of his cancerous pancreas.
“I’m still taking it easy,” he said, admitting how refreshing it was not to even have his cellphone for most of the past two weeks.
Cohen was invited to Andrew Cuomo’s campaign stop in Monticello yesterday, but he knew better than to go.
“I wasn’t even tempted,” he said. “I’m committed to getting better. I’m going to be smart and take care of myself.”
That’s happy news for a bevy of supporters, friends, family and well-wishers, many of whom sent Cohen messages of hope and good will after he announced that he was suffering from an extraordinarily rare form of pancreatic cancer.
“I am totally overwhelmed by the cards and letters I’ve gotten,” he remarked, his voice choked with emotion. “I’m just so touched and moved by people’s kindness. It’s just blown me away.”
Cohen and his family had found out about the cancer in the spring, ultimately heading down to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City on July 6.
The next day, he was joined by more friends and family, including Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther and Sullivan County Democratic Committee Chairman Steve Wilkinson.
The medical staff actually had him walk from the visiting area to the surgical room. Cohen even mounted the operating table himself.
“It was one of those experiences I would have preferred to be knocked out for,” he admitted with a laugh.
He soon was unconscious, and doctors spent the next five hours removing his pancreas, spleen and part of his intestines, then reconstructing his digestive system.
They also searched for more trouble spots, as pancreatic cancer is notoriously lethal, often not caught until it’s spread into other organs.
“They couldn’t see anything that looked bad,” Cohen was later told.
But he had to wait a week before a pathology report delivered the great news:
“It confirmed there’s no evidence of cancer elsewhere in my body.”
He admitted that sort of caught him by surprise.
“I was very hopeful,” he remarked, “but I can’t say I was expecting that.”
In the meantime, his digestive system slowly learned a new routine, and Cohen was taught how to inject himself with insulin six times a day and eat four properly-balanced meals, as the lack of a pancreas rendered him instantly diabetic.
“I’m not complaining about it,” he affirmed. “I’m happy to be alive, so I think it’s a pretty good tradeoff.”
True to form, he’s already getting caught up with his staff on office work. While that’s via his home computer and telephone, by August he will likely be back at the Government Center.
“It’s not going to take me long to get back in the groove,” he acknowledged.
But he’s not in any rush. Far beyond his new diet, breakfast time has taken on new meaning.
“This experience,” he related, “has really convinced me it’s great to wake up in the morning.”

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