A couple’s fight for a cure


Marilyn and Jim Islam

Every couple has their own special story of how they met. For the Islams, it was the fight for a cure that brought them together. They crossed paths at an American Cancer Society fundraiser. Jim’s company, Florida Food Service, was catering, Marilyn was helping run a casino booth, and the rest is history.

Jim’s and Marilyn’s passion for the cause is personal. Jim, 70, lost his late wife to cancer; Marilyn, 66, is a melanoma survivor, and many of their immediate family members have had cancer.

The pair married in 2005. Since then, they have served together on the UF Shands Cancer Center Leadership Council and have made generous financial contributions to the center’s research. As advisory board members, they stay up-to-date on UF&Shands’ latest strides in research and patient care and are pleased with the center’s continued progress.

Jim says, “I can’t stress enough the marvelous stuff that they’re doing.”

The couple was excited when the center unveiled the Intrabeam, its newest cancer-fighting machine, in November. It’s just as effective as conventional radiation but can reduce side effects and dramatically decrease treatment time from weeks to a single half-hour session. Shands is one of fewer than 20 centers nationwide to have it.

Also, the Islams are proud of the UF Proton Therapy Center, established in 2006. It significantly reduces patients’ risk of collateral damage during radiation treatment.

Beyond the center’s technology, Jim and Marilyn are thrilled with its quality patient care under the leadership of Paul Okunieff, M.D. Marilyn says she will never forget the day she got the call telling her she had melanoma in 1998. Shands got her in for surgery that afternoon.

“That, to me, was worth a million bucks,” Marilyn said.

— Kathryn Stolarz

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Summer 2011

From the Director’s Desk

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