Peg Elefant
Hadassah National Vice President

How Hadassah Saved My Husband’s Life

Photo supplied by the author.
Peg & Steve Elefant - photo supplied by the author.

Marrying Passion with Purpose?  But of course!

I am lucky. I marry two passions, my purpose in serving Hadassah, and my passion as a professional artist.

What I know is true:

  • My husband, Steve Elefant is 73 years old. He is alive and well 15 years post-mucosal melanoma
  • Steve walks two to four miles with me every day.
  • Steve is a mensch – we all love him!
  • Steve cooks every single meal and has for 41+ years. I clean a mean dish.
  • When the kids were in school and I was teaching, Steve made all our breakfasts and lunches early in the morning.
  • He lined the lunches up on the banister so we could easily grab them on the way out. We have different tastes, so all our lunches were different.
  • He came home from a hard workday and cooked dinner. He also does all the food shopping.
  • Did I mention that Steve has always done all the laundry. I do a mean fold.
  • For two years, Steve slept on the couch with our aging Pittie,”Coda.” I occasionally saw him. He still attended to everyone’s comfort except his own. He napped daily…when possible.

Steve was diagnosed with Mucosal Melanoma in 2008. That means that the linings of his organs were full of cancer. He was given six months to “put his affairs on order.”  And here we are in Corvallis OR doing great 15 years later. How did this happen?

It’s a long story replete with bumps in the road along with heralding grace and damn good science. You get the short version!

Four years ago, we learned just how Hadassah Medical Organization in Israel saved my husband’s life.  We were on a conference call with about twenty Hadassah members and Dr. Michal Lotem, MD, Head of the Center for Melanoma and Cancer Immunotherapy, Department of Oncology, Hadassah Medical Organization.

At one point in the call, a participant asked Dr. Lotem “Why should we donate to Hadassah thousands of miles away, when we have so many research facilities here in the U.S.?”

Dr. Lotem’s response: “I have collaborations all over the world. For example, I have collaborated with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.”

I interrupted her and said: “I would like you to meet my husband, Steve, whose life was saved by immunotherapy.” That shut everyone up!

Now, can I verify that the Hadassah Medical Organization saved my husband’s life?  No, but I can say for certain that Dr. Lotem’s seminal research in immunotherapy over 20 years ago laid the foundation for his treatment as did her collaboration with “The Hutch.” Lucky us! Lucky so MANY people!

Dr. Lotem’s job as the leader of The Melanoma and Cancer Immunotherapy Center at Hadassah Hospital puts the world-class research hospital at the forefront of innovative research and patient treatment worldwide.  As such, the Center has a significant impact on the management of cancer patients through the development of novel approaches to improve current immunotherapies. Dr. Lotem was one of the instrumental, founding researchers of KEYTRUDA.

Fabulous research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and superb care at its affiliate, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, provided Steve with world class research physicians who are also professors at the University of Washington Medical School.  Dr. Shailender Bhatia, his oncologist, quickly made an accurate diagnosis (after a major mistake in Corvallis, Oregon) and to this very day he stays on top of and is intricately involved in innovating, exciting melanoma research. Though mucosal melanoma is not the skin cancer melanoma you are probably familiar with, the immunotherapy clinical trial worked for Steve!  How grateful are we?  Words cannot express our gratitude.

Bless Hadassah Medical Organization. Bless Fred Hutchinson. We are the fortunate beneficiaries of world class science.

Visit my website in support of Hadassah:


Artwork by Peg Elefant.
Artwork by Peg Elefant.

To learn more about Hadassah Medical Organization, visit here.

About the Author
Hadassah National Vice President Peg Elefant has demonstrated exemplary leadership over her 40-plus years at Hadassah, including service as a: Creative Consultant, Curriculum Developer and Chair for Building Hadassah Community; National Leadership Vice-Chair; President, Pacific Northwest Region; and National Online Training Chair. Peg has been intricately involved in Hadassah leadership, creating and delivering trainings for region presidents, multi-region conferences and individual regions. Having served on the Constitution and Governance Committee, Peg has a deep understanding of Hadassah’s constitution and bylaws and how they support the operations of the organization. As an artist, Peg paints both in Israel and at home in Oregon. She believes that art is a way of communicating a sense of place and has shared her knowledge and artwork with multiple regions. Originally from Northern California, Peg has lived in Corvallis, Oregon for over 40 years, where she first encountered and developed a passion for Hadassah.
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