Teaching's In Her Blood; Retired Roxbury Teacher Turns Inward

d93b041d5ca0704efacb_4cdc20765ebd667dc893_rita.jpg
Retired Roxbury Teacher Rita Coakley Credits: Stafford Communications
59df5c3ca9b1c6d20632_b60c025fa0bb3348fa2b_coakley.jpg
Retired Roxbury Teacher Rita Coakley Credits: Stafford Communications
d93b041d5ca0704efacb_4cdc20765ebd667dc893_rita.jpg

ROXBURY, NJ - Rita Coakley is participating in an experiment that involves teaching. To those who know Coakley, who spent 26 years edicating the students of Roxbury, that should come as no surprise.

But this is different.

Coakley’s new endeavor involves teaching the body to protect itself from the cancer cells that form tumors. She’s one of the first patients testing a new form of immunotherapy designed to train a patient’s immune system to fight cancer.

Sign Up for E-News

The vaccine under study, called “DCVax,” is unique in that it takes advantage of the ability of white blood cells to recognize – and destroy – a patient’s cancer cells, said Dr. Yaron Moshel, a neurosurgeon with Atlantic NeuroSurgical Specialists of Morristown.

Moshel, who is also co-director of the Brain Tumor Center of New Jersey, performed brain tumor surgery on Coakley earlier this year. After the successful tumor removal, Coakley agreed to participate in the DCVax trial under the guidance of Moshel’s colleague at the center, Dr. Michael Gruber.

“Before Rita started radiation, we collected a coffee-cup’s worth of white blood cells and extracted her dendritic cells,” said Gruber. The cells and Coakley’s tumor were sent to a facility in Tennessee.

“They take the protein from the tumor and introduce it to the dendritic cells so they learn to recognize and kill the cancer cells bearing those proteins,” explained the doctor. “Essentially, Rita’s white blood cells go to boot camp to learn to fight her own tumor cells "

Coakley, who began teaching in Roxbury in 1989 and was awarded Teacher of the Year at Lincoln-Roosevelt School in 2014, said the discovery of the tumor came as a surprise.

During Spring Break in April, she and her husband, Leo, a Roxbury School Board member, were shopping in New York City for a dress Coakley could wear to a wedding. That night, after the shopping trip, Coakley’s husband was shocked when his wife said she couldn’t remember anything about the excursion.

That was particularly unusual because Coakley can usually recall details about every special occasion dress she owns. “By the next morning I remembered everything,” she said. But her husband insisted she go to the hospital, where she had a CT scan.

The next day, when Moshel informed her of the tumor, Coakley was shocked. “I said, ‘You’re kidding,’” she recalled. She said she had no symptoms except for the strange, temporary memory loss and recurring headaches she'd been experiencing, and dismissed as being harmless, for years.

The glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer, was in an accessible place. A week later it was completely removed.

“It all happened so quickly,” said Coakley. “I was off on Spring Break, planning to return to school and retire at the end of the year, but this called for a detour. I never went back to work after the break.”

She did return for a surprise party given by her students and their parents. “It was terrific,” Coakley said. “Then I retired, and that’s when my career switched from teacher to researcher.”

Leo Coakley considers the DCVax vaccine “like an extra insurance policy.” In addition to the normal follow-up treatments which include one week of oral chemotherapy for each of the next six months, Coakley might also “have the benefit of the vaccine,” he said.

However, because it is a trial - where results of vaccine use must be weighed against results seen by patients given placebos - Coakley might not be receiving the medicine after all. She doesn't know.

“I’m on a trial study program,” she said. “You make your own vaccine using your own blood and tumor, but I don’t even know if I’m getting that.”

She said her last MRI came up clean. If that changes, and it turns out she was receiving the placebo, Coakley will be administered the vaccine, she said.

Meanwhile, Coakley is looking back fondly on her career and feeling thankful for the love she's getting from many in town. She praised Roxbury residents, especially her fellow parishioners at St. Therese Roman Catholic Church in Succasunna.

“The support from that church has been phenomenal,” said Coakley. “And the community in general is so wonderful, so nice."

Her advice to those diagnosed with cancer: As hard as it seems, "You have to have a positive attitude, prayer and a sense of humor.”

 

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Roxbury

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_afd0d9e1c3acce03b12c_beer_and_donuts

Wed, April 25, 7:00 PM

Circle Bowl and Entertainment, Ledgewood

Devils Backbone Beer and Donuts!

Food & Drink

Carousel_image_a564abd6d49c88fd33f4_eat_drink_play

Thu, April 26, 7:00 PM

Circle Bowl and Entertainment, Ledgewood

Pallet Paint Night!

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_7e1d6951ac6ba3dcdcb0_deer

Fri, April 27, 6:00 PM

VFW Post 2833, Kenvil

VFW Post 2833 Venison Dinner

Food & Drink

Carousel_image_f60a5cfa34dde44bf415_b27dbd9efcf93af1d826_retroimage

Sat, April 28, 9:00 AM

Retro Fitness, Kenvil

Zumba for 11th Hour Rescue

Giving Back Health & Wellness Sports

Columns

Peyton's Pointers for Safer Driving

Many customers ask my advice for ways to add more years of life to their vehicles. Here are a few pointers from my 35 years of experience in the auto repair industry, as well as some tips to keep you safer on the road.  

1.    Pull Through a Parking Spot.  Pull through to the other side of a parking space so your vehicle faces forward out ...

Getting it Right From the Start; Roxbury Realtor Bob Idakaar

ROXBURY, NJ – Twenty years ago this month, Bob Idakaar experienced an unprofessional real estate agent. That’s when he decided to be a good one.

Idakaar, a lifelong Succasunna resident and TAPinto Roxbury sponsor, bought his fifth home in July 1997. A big event, one that could have been joyous, ended up being stressful and unenjoyable.

“I had a bad experience,” he ...

Roxbury Diner: Homespun Hospitality Through Thick and Thin

ROXBURY, NJ – Roxbury was being buried in snow March 14 and most businesses were closed. Not Roxbury Diner.

Roxbury Diner isn’t like most businesses.For co-owner Jimmy Dontas, a snowstorm – even a blizzard – isn’t a reason to suspend operations. Instead, it’s a call to action.

To many in town, Roxbury Diner – a TAPinto Roxbury sponsor – is ...

It Began With Filling Your Tank; Now They Fix Your Grandson’s Car

When we drive east on Route 10 through Roxbury, many of us might remember a Shell station at the Randolph border next to the golf range. It was in that station that Nancy and Peyton Knight began their long history of auto repair in the township.

That was 1983 and soon the Knights’ business grew and expanded. The humble gas station gradually morphed into a state-of-the-art ...

Orthopedic Urgent Care in Roxbury - Open Late and on Weekends

ROXBURY, NJ – It’s a pleasant Sunday morning, you’re playing volleyball in the back yard with the kids and – forgetting you’re not 17 anymore – you jump up to smack that ball.

Instead of feeling the satisfaction of an unanswered spike, you feel the stinging pain of a wounded ankle.

The only good thing about this scenario is that you live in Roxbury. That ...

Love of His Hometown Drives Roxbury Realtor Ted Miller II

ROXBURY, N.J. – Most local real estate agents can tell you what houses are for sale in Roxbury. Ted Miller can probably tell you what was there before the houses were built. 

Miller, a TAPinto Roxbury sponsor, grew up in the township and has watched it change from bucolic to bustling. The son of a local Realtor, ...

Three Sons at His Side, John Klein Makes Plumbing a Family Affair

ROXBURY, N.J. - Running water and a warm house during winter months are some of the most important amenities we enjoy -- and often take for granted -- in our homes.

With John Klein Plumbing & Heating, a TAPinto Roxbury sponsor, residents of Roxbury (and beyond) have a father-and-sons company they count on for reliable plumbing and heating services to keep the ...

Letters to TAPinto Roxbury

St. Therese K of C Says 'Thanks Roxbury'

April 20, 2018

Dear Editor,

St Therese Knights of Columbus Council #6320 would like to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU to the residents of Roxbury and its surrounding communities for their continued support of our annual Citizens with Developmental Disabilities Drive held April 13-15.

Your generosity enabled us to raise $4,700 which will go to support the missions of the local Department for Persons with ...

Roxbury School Board Statement Inaccurate and Misleading

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to the Roxbury Board of Education’s April 11 online news release regarding the status of negotiations with the Roxbury Education Association (REA). 

To say we are disappointed by this piece of fiction, written by what can only be described as selective memory on their part, is putting it mildly.  It is inaccurate, misleading, and a ...

Roxbury Golf Management Student Brian Quilty Honored at Coastal Carolina

March 1, 2018

CONWAY, SC -- Brian Quilty of Succasunna, is among the 106 Professional Golf Management students at Coastal Carolina University with a 3.0 GPA or higher. A 2.0 GPA is required to remain enrolled in the program.

"Our PGA Golf Management Program students take their academics seriously and are committed to performing at a high level," said Will Mann, PGA, director of the ...

Student from Succasunna Makes RIT Dean's List

ROCHESTER, NY -- Joelle Marston of Succasunna, who is in the environmental sustainability, health and safety program, made the Dean's List for the fall semester at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Degree-seeking undergraduate students are eligible for Dean's List if their term GPA is greater than or equal to 3.400; they do not have any grades of "Incomplete", "D" ...

Two From Roxbury Area Make Loyola Dean's List

BALTIMORE, MD -- Two students from the Roxbury area made the Loyola University fall 2017 Dean's List.

In order to qualify for the Dean's List at Loyola, a student must achieve a minimum QPA of at least 3.500 for the term, provided that, in the term they have successfully completed courses totaling a minimum of 15 credits.

The following local students have achieved this ...

Three from Roxbury Area Make James Madison Dean's List

HARRISONBURG, VA -- James Madison University is pleased to announce the following students made the dean's list for the fall 2017 semester:

Jordan Israel Taylor of Flanders .

Nicolette Thorkildsen of Flanders .

Olivia J Viparina of Ledgewood .

Students who earn dean's list honors must carry at least 12 graded credit hours and earn a GPA of between 3.5 and 3.899.

Totaro Makes Hofstra Dean's List

HEMPSTEAD, NY -- Julia Totaro of Mt. Arlington excelled during the Fall 2017 semester, achieving a GPA of at least 3.5 to earn a spot on the Hofstra University Dean's List.

Roxbury Area Students Named to the Marist College Dean's List

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY -- The following local students have been named to the Marist College Dean's List for the Fall 2017 semester:

Mariah Christian of Flanders is a member of the Class of 2018 and is majoring in Communication.

Jenna Ficula of Flanders is a member of the Class of 2019 and is majoring in Computer Science.

Erika Hofgesang of Kenvil, is a member of the Class of ...

Press Releases

Bye Bye Birdie at Roxbury Performing Arts Center

April 23, 2018

WHAT

Bye Bye Birdie Hexagon Players of Mendham

 

WHO

Presented by Hexagon Players

Directed by Ray Gelpke

Musical Direction by Nancy James

Choreographed by Olivia Davis

WHEN

May 11 – 19, 2018

 

PERFORMANCE DATES

Friday, May 11 and May 18 at 7:30PM

Saturday, May 12 and May 19 at 2:00PM and 7:30PM

Sunday, May 13 at ...

MWBI Music Festival At Roxbury, April 21

ROXBURY, NJ - Roxbury High School, Music for All, and the Roxbury Band Parents Association (RHSBPA) are pleased and proud to announce the Fifth Annual Metropolitan Wind Band Invitational (MWBI) Saturday, April 21 in the Roxbury High School Auditorium, 1 Bryant Drive, in Succasunna, NJ.

This all-day music festival will be filled with 18 performances by several of the regions most ...