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Barbara Tillman - Cancer Survivor

  Barbara Tillman, 67, a retired elementary school principal living in Fort Lee, chose to have her cancer protocol/treatment at Holy Name Medical Center. Upon Barb's receiving her specific colorectal cancer diagnosis in February 2011, by Drs. Ronald White (Surgeon and Gastroenterologist) and Philip Micale (Gastroenterologist), she researched options of hospitals and doctors, in both NYC and New Jersey. Both of these doctors (associated with Holy Name) found and analyzed the tumor immediately, which speaks to their skill, professionalism, and the importance of early detection. (Barb knows about the importance of early detection, as she is a breast cancer survivor from 2001.)

There was no surgery. However, Barb's protocol was one in which she would need to go for radiation every day, for an extended period of time. Also, she would have a port implanted in her chest for chemotherapy, that would extend throughout the treatment period. Those were important factors in choosing where to be treated--(a) acknowledging her probable lessening of strength, (b) her capability of being able to travel daily, as well as (c) her trust in the professionals, whom she would see regularly, and (d) the nurturing of a smaller (and clean) treatment setting. Another essential factor in her choice of The Holy Name Cancer Center was the installation of a pinpoint radiation facility, thus ensuring that other organs in the body would not be affected.

Dr. Rosanna Modesto, a doctor at Holy Name, had been Barb's Internist for well over a decade. Dr. Modesto acted as the 'hub', making sure that there would be vital and constant communication with the Oncologist, Dr. Minoxi Jhawer (a specialist in colorectal cancers who had practiced at Memorial Sloan-Kettering,) and Radiation Oncologist, Dr. Benjamin Rosenbluth (trained at Memorial Sloan-Kettering), as well as other excellent doctors and staff involved with the process--from beginning to end. Barb noted, "I believe that is an integral part of the job of an Internist, to manage the network that surrounds each of his/her patients. When that communication breaks down is when crucial information may not be available for the continual well-being of the patient." At Holy Name everybody involved did work together. Moreover, Barb received calls at home from the doctors, just to check up on how she felt--about her progress and about anything else she might need to let them know about her current condition.

The course for Barb's treatment was essentially about two months of radiation daily, with chemotherapy infused at different times to last the course of the protocol. Each week, she would have an appointment with Dr. Jhawer and one with Dr. Rosenbluth. Also, there was a nurse practitioner, Dale Reiger-Butler, who would answer any questions if the doctors were not available to speak to her between appointments. Both doctors would always call back, if a question was not answered or a problem was not solved. Although there were bodily reactions to the treatment, every effort was made to let the patient know that ahead of time and to resolve any issues of discomfort. The radiation technicians were knowledgeable and comforting. The head nurses were a fount of knowledge. Even the physicist who worked on the machines was focused and personable. Due to proper medications and early response to discomfort, Barb does not remember having any nausea or pain. Always available was an oncology nutritionist, Debbie Besson. Her knowledge and suggestions made a world of difference when the time came to 'relearn' how to eat after the protocol. Also, the infusion lab personnel were/are caring and attentive. Also to be noted, Dr. Brian Kim, Oncologist, met with Barb, each week for a short time, while Dr. Jhawer was on maternity leave.

Even with a positive attitude and an eye to healing and recovered stamina, it does take time and patience and fortitude and faith/hope to heal. At the date of the writing of this article ( late November 2012) on Barb Tillman's experience, it is important to note that she still goes to the hospital for essential follow-up testing, blood workups, biweekly B-12 shots (for increased energy), and appointments with her two doctors--albeit, the appointments, now, are spread six weeks apart. After the protocol, she went to physical therapy at Holy Name for more than three months. She states, "Going to Physical Therapy was an absolutely important component in building up strength, balance, and confidence. The therapists and assistants were so smart and helpful and funny; it was hard to leave that place." She just had a colonoscopy with Dr. Micale. Since the end of the protocol, she has seen Dr, White regularly, every three months. It takes a long time to get back to where you were; but, at Holy Name you feel grateful every step of the way. ("And, you do have to take into account the aging process!")

Barb wants to thank, with a full heart, every individual, from entering The Cancer Center, to the desks at the oncology floor and the radiation floor, to the infusion center, to the radiation technicians, to the technicians who take your blood pressure--and your blood and do the analysis of your blood, to the nurse practitioners, and to all of the other oncology doctors--who somehow seem to know who you are and acknowledge you. She is appreciative of the staff 'behind the scenes' whom she didn't meet but knew they were attending to her treatment. Thank you to Mary Lou Anton, who manages the Center. Do you know that when you make a phone call to The Holy Name Cancer Center, the message says, "Press #1 If you are a PATIENT?" And, you are connected to somebody immediately. Now, that makes a statement about priorities, loud and clear!