By Kathryn Brenzel | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Ed Schwartz drinking from a coconut he picked off a tree during a previous trip to Maui. (Photos courtesy of Julie Tung)
RIDGEWOOD—With only a few weeks to live, a Ridgewood man is on his way to fulfill his dying wish: to see the sunset in Hawaii.
“I think it’s one of the most beautiful places on the planet,” said Ed Schwartz, whose battle with blood cancer can no longer be waged medically. “Doctors are telling me I only have a few weeks. I’d much rather spend the time there, in paradise.”
Schwartz, known locally as “Eco Ed” for his work as an environmentalist, began his journey to Maui on Wednesday, along with his wife, Julie Tung, and his son, Kyle. They took off this morning from Teterboro in an air ambulance, heading to Oakland, Calif., in order to take a charter plane for the rest of the way. Friends and community members have raised more than $35,000 on a GoFundMe page to help make the trip possible.
After undergoing chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant and various trials, Schwartz has run out of treatment options and doesn’t have much time left, Tung told NJ Advance Media by phone, when they stopped to refuel the medical transport in Omaha, Neb. They don’t have a set plan for their visit, except to relax and enjoy the scenery, she said.
“We don’t have a game plan. We don’t know how long we’ll have,” she said. “If he could just see one last sunset, it will be worth it.”
Schwartz was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a rare form of blood cancer, in late 2013. Before he started chemotherapy, he asked his doctor if he could first take a trip to Hawaii, Tung said. The answer was “yes, but you’ll die.” So, they held off on the trip, but now, knowing that the cancer is incurable, “it’s time to go,” she said.