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Paying It Forward

Patient's Uplifting Experience Motivated Her to Make a Gift

Alice Fixx spent New Year's Eve 2009 at Memorial Sloan Kettering, recovering from surgery. "I expected it to be gloomy, and that was not my experience," she says. In the recreation area on the hospital's top floor, there was a lavish buffet of hot and cold hors d'oeuvres and cookies, and nurses passed around sparkling juice in lieu of Champagne. "Everyone wrote down a wish for the New Year, releasing them out the window. I was uplifted," Alice recalls. "Memorial Sloan Kettering restored my faith in medicine—and that night was symbolic of my entire experience. It reflected the institutional culture that pervades MSK—unique kindness, warmth, and caring."

The previous fall, Alice had been diagnosed with anal cancer, an extremely rare cancer. "I run my own public relations business and I'm a 'doing' person," she says. "When confronted with a difficult situation, I take action. I did thorough research and one name kept coming up again and again—Leonard Saltz." Dr. Saltz is Chief of MSK's Gastrointestinal Oncology Service and Head of the Colorectal Oncology Section.

Scans done after her diagnosis revealed that Alice was also in the earliest stages of an aggressive form of lung cancer. Unrelated to anal cancer, this malignancy often remains undetected until extremely advanced.

I have complete faith that the team at MSK will revolutionize how this disease is understood and treated.

—Alice Fixx

A multidisciplinary team, including Dr. Saltz and MSK Oncologist and Surgeon Larissa Temple united to create a plan. The lung cancer would be treated immediately, then chemotherapy and radiation would target the anal cancer. One cancer diagnosis effectively saved Alice's life from another.

Unfortunately, a recurrence of the anal cancer required extensive surgery to prevent further spread, and a new growth was discovered just months after that procedure on Alice's liver. Given the extent of her previous treatments, more surgery would be extremely complex—and chemotherapy, while taxing, was determined to be the best treatment option.

For Alice, a challenge again became a victory. Intestinal complications required emergency surgery. Dr. Temple arranged to have a MSK hepatobiliary surgeon remove the tumor in Alice's liver during the same procedure. "Even after a long and tiring day, Dr. Temple came to see me at 7 p.m. in the Urgent Care unit. She took my hands in hers and said, 'Alice, I know this is hard. But you're almost at the end, and I promise I will take you across the finish line.'"

In fall of 2013, Alice Fixx was declared cancer free. "MSK's clinicians are brilliant, but they are also extraordinary human beings," says Alice. "And it's not just the medical team. I would often ask the kind person making my bed, or the friendly assistant at the front desk, 'How long have you worked here?' Amazingly, the answer was often 15, 20, even 30 years—proof of how special MSK is."

In recognition of the care she received, Alice is making a gift through her estate to support anal cancer research. "I have complete faith that the team at MSK will revolutionize how this disease is understood and treated. I am grateful to be able to pay forward all the good they have done for me."

Memorial Sloan Kettering gratefully acknowledges her visionary commitment to the Center's future and recognizes her as a member of the Cullum Society.

Click here to read other inspiring stories of support.

A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

An individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust, or retirement plan.

I bequeath to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, a New York nonprofit corporation having a principal place of business at 1275 York Avenue, New York, NY 10065, Federal Tax ID #13-1924236, ____percent of my total estate (or $_____, or other property) to be used or disposed of as Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in its sole discretion deems appropriate.

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor-advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to MSK or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate, or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property, or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to MSK as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to MSK as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and MSK where you agree to make a gift to MSK and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

A tax imposed at one's death on the transfer of most types of property. Currently federal estate taxes are assessed in 2019 on estates worth more than $11.2 million. The maximum estate tax rate is 40 percent. Some states also impose taxes at death that vary depending on state law.

A written legal instrument created by a grantor for the benefit of him/herself (during life) or others (during life or at death).

A revocable trust established by a grantor during his or her lifetime in which the grantor transfers some or all of his or her property into the trust.

Equity or debt instruments, typically shares listed on a stock exchange, which can be readily bought or sold.