They were new to town when Clem Lisitski and his wife, Tania, decided to venture out of their new financial office to spend the day drinking coffee, doing work and people-watching at a Danish cafe on the west side of Red Bank.
It was at that cafe, years ago, when Clem was informed of a networking group that would be meeting at the cafe the next morning. The couple joined, eventually taking the reins and merging with a second networking alliance to become the Navesink Business Alliance.
Little did they know, but the bonds they were forming with members of their business alliance would prove to be a testament of guided faith.
“If we didn’t get into that initial business group, I don’t know how Tania would have been cured of cancer,” Clem said during an interview with his wife on June 14.
Ten years ago, Clem and Tania, who previously lived in Freehold Township, leaned on faith when they were encouraged by a friend to move their financial business, Primerica, to Red Bank.
The couple took the advice and five years later they made Red Bank their home.
The move came just before Tania, now 52, was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer in 2015. At that time, Tania, who initially informed doctors she favored holistic methods of treatment, was given three months to live if she chose not to receive chemotherapy or radiation. She decided to undergo chemotherapy and radiation.
On June 14, Tania smiled as she handed out vibrant red T-shirts that read “Run For Tania” in white letters. The shirts were distributed to friends, family members and members of the Red Bank community who would be participating on Tania’s Red Bank 5K Classic team the next day.
The Red Bank Classic 5K is a collaborative effort between the Red Bank Business Alliance and Red Bank RiverCenter. The race is organized by a group of business owners and community volunteers. Proceeds benefit youth programs at the Red Bank Family YMCA and the Red Bank Department of Parks and Recreation, according to the race’s website.
Tania said Clem became interested in racing while she was undergoing treatment. Clem said running helped free his mind and allowed him to “be with God.”
“In 2015, I forced my husband to go to The MAX Challenge (gym) in Shrewsbury to start working out because he was overweight,” Tania said. “I started working out with him and I wasn’t feeling good … I knew there was something wrong so I made a gynecologist appointment. I go (to the appointment) and the (doctor) who saw me said … ‘you have cancer for sure’ … It was stage 3 at that time … (Doctors) then did a scan and realized I had a swollen lymph node in my clavicle. The cancer then turned into stage 4.”
Radiation each day and chemotherapy once a week – those were the activities Tania’s calendar were shaping into, but she needed a second opinion.
Tania and Clem said their faith in God has directed their steps. Before moving their business to Half Mile Road in Red Bank from the Juniper Business Plaza in Freehold Township, Tania said a client asked them if they were members of a church. They were not.
“(The client) then recommended three churches. She said, ‘you are going to find your church.’ We listened to her and found Calvary Chapel in Old Bridge,” Tania said, adding that the couple attended the church for 13 years.
After moving to Red Bank, the couple joined Park Church after learning about the congregation in their networking group. At the non-denominational house of worship, Tania and Clem met Dr. Stan Lou. About one year later, Tania needed his help.
“Tania was originally having a hard time getting (cancer treatment) with any doctor. She used to go all the way up to Livingston by herself … This is when she was told she had three months to live … I said, ‘let me call Stan.’ I called him and said we couldn’t get in to Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch. They wouldn’t take us for three months. Stan said he would get (Tania) in tomorrow,” Clem said.
Clem said Lou scheduled Tania to see Dr. Seth Cohen at Monmouth Hematology-Oncology in West Long Branch the next day.
“Dr. Cohen did tests right there. He told her she needed to be treated immediately and said he would get her going immediately,” Clem recalled. “We would not have even known (Lou) if we had not (switched) to Park Church. We only switched churches because my dad’s pastor gave me a prophecy … He said, ‘you’re like a glass that’s filled up with knowledge and you need to pour that out and go to a different church to do that.’ ”
“Once I realized I had cancer, I backed out (of the gym),” Tania said. “But I wanted Clem to continue. I said, ‘you have to do marathons.’ He wanted it. He wanted to run.”
Clem, who is preparing to run the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13, said that without the encouragement of his wife, who helped him lose 150 pounds, he would not be running marathons. The first event in which they participated together was the Red Bank 5K.
Angela Courtney, the owner of Sweetest Sin Boutique, encouraged the duo to join the planning committee for the first Red Bank 5K Classic, which occurred in 2018.
“We are all in this group together called the Red Bank Business Alliance (RBBA),” Clem said, adding that Tania has served as the group’s secretary for more than a year.
Today, Clem and Tania are active members of their community. Participating in the Red Bank 5K Classic has allowed Tania and Clem to fully immerse themselves in the spirit of Red Bank – a town they proudly represent and say they are blessed to be a part of.
“Moving was the best decision,” Tania said.
After months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Tania said her cancer was temporarily “completely gone” until 2018 when it reappeared. She is currently undergoing treatment.
On Race Day, June 15, Tania and Clem were among the 1,200 runners who filled the length of Broad Street as the race was about to begin. Their team – which had more than 50 participants – had a distinguished spirit founded on friendship and faith.