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Purple ribbons about town call attention to deadly killer


The first purple ribbon went up at the Newport Plain Talk as the family of Lenny
Zmich, a cancer victim, helped raise awareness about pancreatic cancer in
November. From left are Parker and Logan Latno, Lenny's grandsons; Bonnie
Keller, who is Debbie Zmich's mother; Jenny Zmich, a daughter, Lenny and
Debbie Zmich, and their other daughter, Brandy Hensley and her husband Joey
Published: 5:11 PM, 11/23/2012

Author: David Popiel
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

The Thanksgiving week gave us all a break on our heating bills with mild weather at our hometown, yet don't sell your coal pile because cold days could be just ahead.

Before moving along to share my talk and thoughts about cancer, let me finish for this week our visit with Edsel Hall. Next week, I hope to continue my most interesting coffee chat with retired professional photographer Elza Painter. I must apologize for the wrong photo caption under Edsel's photo that is repeated here with the corrected information. Edsel has been a barber in four states: California, Michigan, South Carolina, and Tennessee. And so far as I know, no one here has worked for as long as a barber and only taken two vacation days in the past 27 years. Wife Roseann celebrates her 82nd birthday in December and sent a cake with Edsel to share with his customers. One of four brothers, Edsel's brother Lloyd Hall, who lives in South Carolina, has been a barber for 40 years. But rather than drive all the way to S.C. for a haircut, Edsel just goes to see his friend barber Ken Hall, who cut Edsel's hair a few weeks ago.

I found it interesting that Lloyd, 67, was stricken with polio as a child and spent many years in the Shrine Hospital at Greenville. Ever since he has worn back and leg braces but manages to work every day. The other brothers are Floyd Hall, a repairman in SC and Jacob (J.L.) Hall, retired and living in California. Edsel said he has enjoyed his many years and comes to work to be able to help somebody.


What's with the purple ribbons?


Last week a group of local citizens began placing purple ribbons about town and at the Newport Plain Talk as a way to remind people that November is pancreatic cancer awareness month. A friend of the Plain Talk, because he has done so much work for us during the past 20 years, is among the people calling attention to what some may think is a rare cancer. But Leonard "Lenny" Zmich knows better. And because he was diagnosed with this cancer wants others to be aware of the symptoms and help raise awareness and money for research and a cure.

To me it seems our town is more aware of cancer in general and that may be due to efforts such as Relay for Life. Just last week I heard that our friend Dr. David McConnell told co-workers at Family Practice Center that he has colon cancer. I stopped by to see attorney Fred Myers mid-month where attorney Melissa Ball was kind to usher me into Fred's office. He was at his office for a short while, recovering from cancer surgery. Doctors removed a portion of his left lung. You may have hard that Buzz Brooks has cancer, too. I talked with him on Wednesday and he had just finished a chemotherapy treatment for lung cancer after being diagnosed a couple months ago. While these cancers may appear to be more common, Lenny's wife, Debbie Zmich, told me that pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of death.

Lenny is still working for himself and doing repairs and renovation on his good days. His life has been accustomed to hard work and long hours, and I will share some of his experiences with you. He comes from a working class family in the Cleveland, Ohio, area and moved to Newport after marrying Debbie, whose family is local. I vaguely recall seeing his difficult-to-pronounce name back in the 1970s, because of his interest in local sports and Plain Talk sports coverage. He continues to be involved in Scouting.

You may have heard he started chemotherapy using a new trail drug in October. You have to endure this treatment to know how difficult it can be and you and I only hear the reports and I whine about my backache to Dr. Ken Johnson, who is also Lenny's doctor. Last year around the fall Lenny started showing signs of diabetes, as his blood sugar was high, he said. During the past two summers he began losing more weight but said this is not uncommon for him because of the hard work and heat. I think he was weighing around 250 pounds and is a strong fellow. Like me he has Polish ancestry so we kid each other about this. The fatigue sent him to the doctor and he began medication. His weight loss to about 200 pounds continued and energy levels varied greatly. He recalled that around the time of the Moon Pie Festival he and the family had a gastrointestinal bout. "I never get sick," he said and feels that the sickness shocked his system.


Visit to Knoxville doctor


Debbie kept pushing him to see a specialist, which he did in Knoxville off Weisgarber Road. After several tests, they confirmed he had pancreatic cancer and recommended treatment. That was September. Lenny explained that he sat in a large room, which had a couple of dozen seats and usually other people getting treatment through IVs. His assigned nurse would draw six to eight vials of blood before the IVs, and the process took three to four hours. He liked the nurses and cancer center and brought to everyone there dozens of apples from Carver's orchard. Daughter Brandy Hensley, who is a leader at the Newport Animal Shelter, likes to bake and prepared a batch of fancy cupcakes for the nurses and doctors, too. Lenny and Debbie like to share, just as the ladies of First United Methodist Church, "The Heart Menders," knitted a throw for Lenny recently.

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