Jeffrey '92 and Brandy '96 Fishman share a life-long love of the University of South Florida. But it was a harrowing experience with pediatric cancer that ultimately led them to giving back to their alma mater.
Jeffrey ‘92 and Brandy ’96 Fishman share a life-long love of the University of South Florida. But it was a harrowing experience with pediatric cancer that ultimately led them to giving back to their alma mater.
Jeffrey earned his degree in real estate and finance from the USF College of Business, and then joined his father Samuel in the family business – the Fishman Mortgage Corporation. He met Brandy, herself a business administration graduate from USF, at a Millennial New Year’s Eve party. The quintessential 21st century couple, the Fishmans worked together to create another business, Investor’s Title, in 2003.
The proud parents of three, 11-year-old Jacob and 9-year-old twins Noah and Abbi, the Fishmans count their children as their proudest accomplishments. Ever the sports enthusiast, Jeffrey recounts the impact of the birth of his twins.
“When we had Jacob, we were able to play man-on-man defense,” laughed Jeffrey. “Now, with three children, we’re forced to play zone.”
Sadly, at only 13 months old, Noah became inconsolable from the kind of pain no child should have to endure. He was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a solid tumor in his spine and abdomen. The resulting nerve pain alerted his parents to the cancer at the earliest stage.
“Because Noah’s tumor pressed against his spinal cord, the resulting pain alerted us very quickly that something was very wrong,” said Brandy. “We were lucky in how it grew, because it would have been much harder for a 13-month old to express discomfort. It was easier for him to express excruciating pain.”
Because the cancer was caught early, before it moved into his bones, Noah had a good prognosis. But it still took the combined resources of three Tampa Bay hospitals – St. Joseph’s, All Children’s and Tampa General, to treat their toddler son. One of the attending surgeons that made Noah’s recovery possible was USF physician Charles Paidas, Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics.
Throughout their son’s treatment, and in the time of his ultimate recovery, the Fishmans’ perspective on life grew and changed. While still focused on their family and their business, they began to look for ways to become involved in the greater Tampa Bay community, and in particular, with other families dealing with pediatric cancer.
“It’s the fraternity that no one wants to belong to,” said Jeffrey. “We met so many good people going through such horrible times. It changes you.”
And so it was with that, the Fishmans, with now three generations of cancer survivors – Jeffrey and his father included – came to attend a prominent Tampa fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. At the event, the Fishmans bid on and won a trip to Reno to see USF football team take on the University of Nevada, a game that turned out to be a thrilling USF victory in 2012.
Football season ticket holders since the Bulls inaugural campaign, a love of USF athletics unites the family.
“All of our children love the Bulls,” said Brandy. “We attend football games of course, but also basketball, volleyball, baseball – you name it, we’ve been to see it. Our children are Bulls through and through, and our love for USF has helped all of us bond and heal as a family in the years since Noah’s recovery.”
During the trip to Nevada, the Fishmans learned about the Iron Bulls and quickly became members. Last fall, their family’s foundation made a significant gift to athletics as part of the ongoing USF: Unstoppable Campaign.
“USF Athletics has meant so much to us, enriched our lives in amazing ways,” said Jeffrey. “Tampa is our town, and USF is our university. USF athletics means so much to everyone in the region, we are proud to support the university and its athletics programs.”
“We hope other alumni will do the same. USF is woven into the fabric of our lives, and the lives of so many people we know and love. Contributing to its continuing success is the right thing to do.”