MRM Lecture Series

In Memory of Michael S. Ratner

Unique Lecture Series: A Chicago Success Story!

We’ve recently moved the Michael Ratner Memorial Lecture Series (MRM) to the Windy City. It seems fitting since my late husband, Michael, and I were born and raised in Chicago. But more importantly is the fact that Chicago doesn’t have a monthly lecture series which emphasizes prevention, cutting-edge scientific and alternative treatments, and optimal health through the the latest research-based findings that promote wellness. We pride ourselves with finding the most innovative experts in specific health-related fields to share their wisdom and philosophies with the community.

Our lecture series has been successful for the past eight years. We’ve assisted people from all over the United States from our core base in Phoenix, Arizona. Our mission hasn’t changed, only our location.



Esophageal cancer (EC) sneaks up on people. My husband, Michael Ratner, (previous owner of Tom’s Restaurant & Tavern in Phoenix), was diagnosed with EC in October of 2008. He had difficulty earlier in the week after he swallowed a piece of carrot, which left him coughing when it became lodged in his esophagus. Two days later, after an endoscopy, the diagnosis was official.

Michael’s health grades were excellent except for a history of recurrent gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which he frequently treated with Pepcid or Tums. He bicycled 20+ miles twice a week, worked out at the gym three days a week, and watched his weight. None of these things would save him.

As many as 15 million Americans experience heartburn every day. Persistent heartburn (two or more times per week) or GERD can cause stomach acid to splash into the esophagus, producing cellular changes that can ultimately result in cancer. If you exhibit these symptoms, schedule a routine endoscopy with your next colonoscopy. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

About three million Americans currently have a condition known as Barrett’s Esophagus, a precancerous condition that results in as much as a 125-fold increase in an individual’s chance to develop esophageal cancer. Often, esophageal cancer is not discovered until it has reached advanced stages. Early detection saves lives.

The good news is that new medical techniques have been developed that can virtually cure patients if detected at an early stage.


The formation of the group came about after I called several well-known Phoenix cancer centers looking for a support group for EC patients and their families. After finding no specific groups for EC, due to low survivor rates, I decided to start my own. This is how our lecture series began in Phoenix—nine years ago.

Our goal is to continue to provide comfort, teach coping skills, and provide a place for people to share their experiences. Our group began and continues with unique attendees. Some come to learn about a specific disease process while others attend because they are supporting a family member or friend.

We meet once a month from 6:30-8:30 PM. At each meeting, an expert speaker presents information on the latest health related topics from palliative and end-of-life care, to nutrition and healing touch, genomics and clinical trials, to radiation and chemotherapy, toxic ingredients in our environments, and naturopathic medicine.

One of our original attendees, Deanne Poulos, lost her brother to esophageal cancer two weeks before his 50th birthday. She attended our first lecture meeting, passed around a photo of her late brother, and said, “I’m here to honor my brother and to support all of you.” Poulos attended every lecture in Arizona. Another member, Harold Riffer, our 22-year EC survivor (he’s 84-years old), occasionally plays Klezmer music on his saxophone during special occasions. Ken Lange, a 15-year survivor, has been blessed with surviving cancer twice.

Michael died on November 16, 2010, after a 25-month EC battle with metastasis to the spine, bone, and liver. He missed only one meeting before he died—when he was hospitalized. It is in honor of him, that we offer the Michael Ratner Memorial Community Support Association to all patients, their families and friends, and the community.

By the Numbers

The American Cancer Society estimated 16,940 Americans will be diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2017. The estimates include:

  • 13,360 men diagnosed
  • 3,580 women diagnosed
  • 15,690 deaths

Terry Ratner was married to Michael Ratner and formed the Michael Ratner Memorial Community Support Association.

I invite you, the community, to join us each month. Feel free to call or email me with any questions.

Terry Ratner, RN, MFA


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