Grateful Patient Gives Back to Yale Cancer Center

Jonathan and Françoise Friedlaender

Jonathan Friedlaender is a biological anthropologist, who has held positions at the University of Wisconsin, Harvard University, Temple University, and the National Science Foundation. He and his wife, Françoise, live in Sharon, Connecticut. He writes:

I’d like to share with you why I decided to establish a charitable gift annuity to benefit Yale Cancer Center.

Several months ago I attended a happy event—a Yale melanoma survivors’ dinner. The attendees said they wanted to make it an annual gathering. For me, until recently, planning anything that far in advance was pointless. A year and a half ago, I was about to accept hospice care after a long and arduous struggle with cancer.

I probably developed melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, as a result of exposure to the intense tropical sun while doing bio-anthropological fieldwork during trips to the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. I was having great adventures, but also knew there were hazards to my work. I worried about boat and truck accidents, malaria, sharks and crocodiles. I did not give a passing thought to skin cancer.

However, a melanoma lesion appeared thirty years later in 1996. At that time, there was essentially no effective treatment beyond surgery.

My cancer progressed slowly, but after ten years, I was referred to Dr. Mario Sznol, professor of medical oncology in the Melanoma Group at Yale Cancer Center. Dr. Sznol informed me that my cancer was stage IV, carrying a median survival expectancy of eight months. Nevertheless, he said there were promising new treatments in early development. During the following years, I underwent a number of different clinical trials. Some had no effect, but others extended my life well beyond expectations.

Then, in 2014, a new immunotherapy regime Dr. Sznol had been testing became available to me. By this time, I was very ill, facing death. However, Dr. Sznol urged me to start the new treatment and undergo surgery. I have subsequently had a truly remarkable response and am now almost entirely clear of disease. In fact, I have just gone off all treatment. Dr. Sznol says I assuredly will die of something else.

As a patient, I have witnessed the notable expansion of Yale Cancer Center. The new Smilow building is an exceptional state of the art oncology center. There has also been a noteworthy increase in the clinical trial program, which benefitted me directly. I have also been impressed with the personal nature of patient care from the outstanding staff, nurses, researchers, and clinicians.

Because of our sense of gratitude and admiration, my wife, Françoise, and I began making annual gifts to Yale’s Melanoma Group a few years ago, and anticipated leaving a more substantial gift to Yale at my death.

Then, I learned about the tax and income benefits of the charitable gift annuity, and quickly realized it was an excellent option. We made a significant gift to the melanoma research effort, and receive fixed payments from Yale. A particularly attractive feature is the tax advantage of funding the annuity with highly appreciated stocks and avoiding much of the capital gain we would have to pay if we sold the stocks.

We are extremely pleased with our continuing relationship with Yale. In fact, I get special satisfaction from counseling new Yale Cancer Center patients who are often as stunned as I was at hearing their diagnosis. I think I am an adequate enough caregiver, but now I have also become a hopegiver.