Patient’s Corner

Colorectal Cancer

Cancer Has Made Me A Better Doctor

David Posner, MD, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  March 15, 2013

After six recurrences of colorectal cancer, the chances it will recur again are high. But if I concentrate on that, I couldn’t live my life. In retrospect, I should have paid attention sooner to the abdominal pain I was experiencing and not dismiss it as a simple case of gas. But at age 47 and with...

Breast Cancer

Acting on Fear

Deb Stewart, BSN, RN, CBCN, BPNC-IC, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  August 15, 2011

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1979 there was no global movement to raise awareness of the disease, there were no pink ribbon pins to show support, and there was no Internet with which to search for information. My doctor gave me the news on a Friday night, and the following Monday...

Breast Cancer
Gynecologic Cancers

Despite a Recurrence, I'm Not Surrendering My Life to Cancer

Selma R. Schimmel, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  July 10, 2013

This is the first time I’m going public with the fact that I have advanced ovarian cancer. I thought I could avoid the fate of my mother and her mother, both of whom died of ovarian cancer in their 50s, and live well past my 60s and even 70s. But at 58, I’ve had to accept that that is not likely. I ...

Hepatobiliary Cancer

Coping with Liver Cancer

Margaret Brandt, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  September 1, 2012

From the moment I had a partial hysterectomy in 2010, I started having unexplained bouts of nausea. My surgeon and even my primary care physician chalked it up to everything from the difficult 6-hour surgery I had just had to anxiety over a move I’d recently made from Connecticut to North Carolina. ...

Lung Cancer

I Never Expected to Get Lung Cancer

Meryl L. Bralower, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  February 15, 2012

When intermittent chest pains sent me to the emergency room nearly a decade ago, I worried that I was having some kind of cardiac event. The ER doctor wanted to make sure that I didn’t have a pulmonary embolism, so in addition to ordering a complete cardiac workup, she also ordered a chest x-ray to ...


Solving a 30-year Mystery

Carol Kuehnert, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  March 1, 2013

When I began experiencing severe neck and back pain about 9 years ago, I had no idea it could be a late side effect from the radiation therapy I had received 31 years ago to treat my Hodgkin lymphoma. And none of the doctors I’ve seen over the past decade have been able to make the connection either...

Colorectal Cancer

Quality of Life Is What’s Most Important to Me

Connie Thoelen, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  May 1, 2012

For me, getting a cancer diagnosis has been more annoying than frightening. Mainly, I’m annoyed at myself for not taking care of an anal skin tag sooner. (I’d had it since birth.) The growth hadn’t been a problem until I got pregnant with my first child and it became temporarily engorged with blood....

Colorectal Cancer

Humor Is Helping Me Survive Cancer

Myles Beskind, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  January 1, 2012

Despite a strong family history of colon cancer—all five of my mother’s siblings had colon cancer, and my mother died of the disease 10 years ago—when some flecks of blood started showing up on my toilet tissue in early 2005, I figured it was from hemorrhoids. At 38, I was a marathon runner and in g...

Gynecologic Cancers

Cancer Diagnosis Can Spark Worry over Numerous Health Concerns

Cate Dolan, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  July 1, 2011

The early discovery of my endometrial cancer is a prime example of the health rewards you can reap if you are lucky enough to have good medical care and a dogged physician. Long past menopause, I wasn’t experiencing any of the typical warning signs of the disease—vaginal bleeding or pelvic pain—when...

Colorectal Cancer

Fear of the Unknown: Cancer Treatment Can Be Scarier than the Disease Itself

Diane Tavegia, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  November 1, 2011

Two years ago, I was feeling fine except for a nagging problem with severe constipation. I believed this was caused by some loperamide I had taken to quell the episodes of diarrhea I experienced following dinner at a local barbecue restaurant. When the symptoms persisted for a couple of months, I de...

Prostate Cancer

On My Way to Hospice Care, Immunotherapy Saved My Life

David Kensler, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  August 25, 2017

Two years ago, I was on my way to hospice care after numerous treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy failed to stop the progression of my stage IV castration-resistant prostate cancer. A last-minute call from my oncologist about a phase I trial of combination ...

Breast Cancer

Stalked by Cancer: One Woman’s Story

Elyse Spatz Caplan, MA, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  July 15, 2011

Cancer has been stalking me all my life. My mother’s mother had died of breast cancer at a relatively young age. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the early 1960s, when she was 35 and I was just 5 years old. Although she was told that she probably wouldn’t live more than 2 years, she sur...

Solid Tumors
Kidney Cancer

Hope and Fear Are Two Constants in the Lives of Patients With Cancer

Adam P. Stern, MD, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  May 10, 2019

A year and a half ago, when I was 33, the thought of having a life-threatening disease was unimaginable. In hindsight, the weight loss I began experiencing in the fall of 2017 should have raised concern because I’ve always had to be mindful of my diet if I wanted to lose weight. But denial can be a ...

Head and Neck Cancer

I Was Not Prepared for the Emotional Toll of Cancer

Dale Maloney, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  April 10, 2019

In 1996, an excruciating sore throat sent me first to my primary care physician and then to an ear, nose, and throat specialist, after a suspicious mass was found on the right side of my throat. A biopsy determined that the tumor was squamous cell neck cancer, and additional tests of my neck, resp...


Carpe Diem

Amir Steinberg, MD, FACP  /  June 25, 2015

My life as a cancer survivor and an oncologist has taught me the importance of living every day to the fullest. Sometimes we all need a little reminding to appreciate life to the fullest. When I think of my former patient, Marc, that is what comes to mind. When I was a senior in high school, I was ...

Prostate Cancer

Keeping a Positive Attitude

Rich Longtin, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  September 15, 2011

I’ve been in alcohol and drug recovery for 20 years, and my wife of nearly 50 years, Arlene, and I have been through a lot together during that time. So 2 years ago, when my doctor told us that I had stage III prostate cancer and a Gleason score of 8, we both looked at him and asked if we could stil...

Hematologic Malignancies

Transitioning From Healthy Physician to Patient With Cancer

Anthony Perre, MD, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  June 25, 2019

As you probably already know, physicians do not make the best patients. When I began experiencing the early signs of Hodgkin lymphoma, in 2007, including a persistent cough, unusual fatigue, and pruritus, I self-diagnosed allergic rhinitis and began treatment with intranasal corticosteroids. Altho...


Living My Best Life

Richard A. Grenell, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  February 10, 2019

Five years ago, I was living my dream life. I was under contract as a commentator on Fox News, which necessitated commuting weekly from my home in Los Angeles to New York, and was building a new home in Palm Springs with my partner, Matt Lashey. Not only was my career and personal life going well, a...

Pancreatic Cancer

Living A Full Life After Pancreatic Cancer

Marsha Edwards, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  April 10, 2020

I have been a radiologic technologist for 47 years, so after going to the bathroom one Sunday morning in October 2018 and finding my urine had suddenly turned dark, I knew something was wrong. I wasn’t in any pain and did not have a urinary tract infection, which would explain the discoloration of m...

Hematologic Malignancies
Multiple Myeloma

Cancer Has Given Me the Life I Was Meant to Live

Jeri A. Dyson, MD, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  February 25, 2019

The first symptom of my multiple myeloma appeared 6 months before I received the official diagnosis. I began having some discomfort, not pain exactly, in my right hip, and developed a pronounced limp. I had recently left my medical practice to launch Global Girls Global Women, a nonprofit humanitari...

Breast Cancer

Cancer Has Left an Indelible Mark on Me

Barb Young, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  May 10, 2015

Even though today I’m cancer-free, the experience of getting a cancer diagnosis and going through treatment leaves an indelible mark on your psyche—as well as your body—that time doesn’t erase. Once you have cancer, you become a cancer survivor, and that status doesn’t change. I’ve known many people...

Hematologic Malignancies

A Clinical Trial Was the Right Choice for Me

Tina Marin, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  August 25, 2019

I found my cancer quite accidentally. In March 2018, as I was taking a shower, my hand casually brushed against my right mastoid bone, and I noticed the area sounded hollow. Around the same time, I realized I had developed a sense of fullness in that ear as well. I had been feeling tired, but that w...

Breast Cancer
Symptom Management

Saving My Hair Changed My Perception of Having Cancer

Deanna King, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  May 10, 2017

Getting a callback after a routine screening mammogram in 2013 did not set off any alarm bells. Having dense breasts has almost guaranteed receiving the dreaded callback ever since I started getting annual screenings. But when I got a second callback after additional images of a suspicio...

Pancreatic Cancer

A Series of Medical Missteps

Debi Rutkowski, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  November 1, 2012

Since the beginning of my symptoms—occasional pain on the upper left side of my abdomen, accompanied at times by nausea—which started nearly 20 years ago, my condition, pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, either remained undetected or was completely misdiagnosed until just recently. A series of diagnos...

Breast Cancer

I Am Too Young for Breast Cancer

Christina Best, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  August 25, 2018

Two years ago, when I began having pain and bloody discharge in my left breast, I thought it was the return of a solitary intraductal papilloma I had had in that breast when I was a college student 6 years earlier, so the symptoms didn’t initially alarm me. It wasn’t until I noticed that the mass ...

Issues in Oncology
Cost of Care

Expensive Cancer Drugs Don’t Work if Patients Can’t Afford Them

David Mitchell, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  July 10, 2018

Eight years ago, I was having a series of colds I couldn’t shake and pain that radiated throughout my back. Still, my symptoms weren’t concerning until, on Halloween morning in 2010, I stepped out of bed and fell to the floor in excruciating pain, unable to move. A visit to the emergency room and a ...

Breast Cancer

Facing the Future without Fear of Breast Cancer Recurrence

Sonia Ray, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  March 1, 2012

A year ago, I was living my dream. Married to a wonderful man, Danny, and with two young children to raise, Karl, 7, and Marcus, 4, I had given up a career in accounting to be a stay-at-home mom. At age 34, I was enjoying life, helping my children with their homework and going to their soccer and ba...

Breast Cancer

Therapy Is Keeping My Metastatic Breast Cancer Manageable

Eva Joseph, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  March 10, 2020

Despite being vigilant about adhering to my annual schedule of screening mammography, in 2002, I was diagnosed with stage III triple-negative breast cancer. The diagnosis scared me, and I wondered if I was going to die. Determined to do what I could to survive the cancer, I underwent aggressive ther...

Lung Cancer

Cancer Doesn’t Frighten Me

Matt Ellefson, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  September 25, 2018

In the fall of 2009, I suddenly went from being a healthy, physically active 47-year-old to a patient with stage IV non–small lung cancer (NSCLC), with a 5-year survival rate of less than 5%. A never-smoker, I had attributed a persistent cough I’d been having to the change in the season. And why wou...

Gastroesophageal Cancer

Too Young to Have Cancer

Anne Kimha, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  April 25, 2015

The first inkling I had that something could be seriously wrong occurred just over a year ago, when I was suddenly inflicted with such severe heartburn it kept me awake at night. Prescriptions from my doctor for ranitidine (Zantac) and meloxicam (Mobic) not only failed to tamp down the fiery pain, I...

Breast Cancer

I Wasn’t Prepared for the Emotional Turmoil of Breast Cancer

Carrie Kreiswirth as told to Jo Cavallo  /  March 25, 2020

Nearly a decade ago, my mother tested positive for the BRCA1 mutation; soon after, my twin sister and I were tested for the inherited defective gene, and I learned I, too, have the BRCA1 mutation. My sister is not a carrier of the mutation. Although there is a long history of both breast and ovarian...

CNS Cancers

We Need to Fill the Gap Between Pediatric and Adult Oncology Care

Sarah Stream, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  March 25, 2018

When I was 15, and just 6 weeks into my sophomore year in high school, I heard a loud sound similar to a gunshot in my head and minutes later I was engulfed in a grand mal seizure, now called tonic-clonic seizure, and rushed to the hospital. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan found a small (abo...

Multiple Myeloma

I Plan to Live Long Enough to Be Cured of Multiple Myeloma

Rich Rubenstein, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  February 10, 2017

Like many other patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma, I didn’t know I had the cancer until I broke a bone. I had felt a twinge of pain on my left side when I hoisted a bucket of baseballs over my left shoulder after participating in a baseball tournament in the spring of 2011, but th...

Breast Cancer

Building and Adjusting to My Life After Cancer

Jennifer Titche, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  July 10, 2015

I had been watching a lump in my left breast for signs of cancer for 10 years, from around the time I was 21. Screening tests had failed to find any tissue abnormality, and my doctor said I was too young to have cancer, so I wasn’t overly concerned. But when I noticed the lump getting bigger in 2010...

Gynecologic Cancers

Fighting to Get Back Control

Mary Van Vlyman, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  November 15, 2011

I’ve had raging hormones since I was 18, when I was diagnosed with a benign pituitary adenoma. The tumor caused unpredictable menstrual cycles that remained constant throughout my life, even after it had been successfully treated. So 2 years ago, when I turned 40 and started having sudden bouts of h...

Gynecologic Cancers

Finding a New Focus After Cancer

Cynthia Hayes, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  September 25, 2019

In the early fall of 2015, my daughter and I were on our way to our favorite nail salon to get picture-perfect ready for a gala later that evening at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York, when I got a call from my gynecologist saying I had “flunked my Pap test.” The Pap smear showed at...

Multiple Myeloma

Living With Cancer Survivorship Guilt

Phil Falkowitz, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  July 25, 2017

Although I was officially diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 1997, the first sign of the cancer was evident 2 years earlier, when a single lesion (a plasmacytoma) was found in a bone in my lower back. The bone was replaced with two thin stainless steel rods, and after a course of radiation therapy, ...


I'm Not the Person I Was Before Cancer 

Cindy Johnson, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  September 1, 2013

I’ve been the caretaker for my husband Will since he suffered three strokes in March 2011, followed by a diagnosis of leukemia a few months later. Now, our roles have reversed, and Will is taking care of me as I go through treatment for stage III follicular non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). It’s been a di...

Breast Cancer

Betting Against the Odds 

Sharon K. Barger, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  February 15, 2013

I knew the two tumors in my left breast were cancerous even before I got the pathology results back on my biopsy. I could clearly see the tumors on the digital mammogram my doctor ordered, and when the radiologist pointed out that they had spikes radiating from the edges and that he was scheduling a...

Kidney Cancer

Social Media Is Helping My Brother Fight Kidney Cancer 

Annie Howell, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  February 1, 2013

My brother, Rick Thomas, is a great guy. I’m not just saying that because he’s my brother. He’s funny, warm, and kind to everyone he meets. He became a commercial airline pilot for American Airlines after flying C-5s in the Air Force for 12 years and has always been a responsible person and a dilige...

Head and Neck Cancer

My Cancer Is Incurable, but My Future Is Limitless

Veronica Cappalonga, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  December 15, 2011

Cancer has nearly always been part of my life. When I was 6 years old, I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The doctors told my parents that unless I was treated immediately, I wouldn’t live longer than a month. Over the next 3 years, I underwent intensive courses of chemotherapy and h...

Breast Cancer

Giving Women a Fighting Chance When They Have Breast Cancer

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz  /  October 15, 2011

I knew there was a chance I could get breast cancer, I just never thought it would really happen to me. I am one of 2.5 million breast cancer survivors living in our country today. Just weeks after getting a clean mammogram and my 41st birthday, I felt a lump in my breast. As a young and otherwise ...

Breast Cancer

Living a Purposeful Life Is My Revenge on Cancer

Beth Fairchild, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  October 10, 2018

There is a lot of breast cancer in my family history. My mother was diagnosed with the disease at 44, and my paternal grandmother died of breast cancer when she was just 33, so I’ve always been diligent about performing breast self-exams— often weekly—to ensure that if I did get breast cancer, it wo...


Celebrating 2 Decades as a Cancer Survivor 

Jim Taulman, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  September 15, 2013

This past June, I celebrated 20 years of being a cancer survivor by throwing myself a party. It was an interesting experience because I learned that many of the 100 guests I invited were also cancer survivors or were family members of cancer survivors, and so we celebrated their lives as well. Our p...

Head and Neck Cancer

Cancer Has Given Me More Than It Has Taken Away

Doug Bradley, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  February 10, 2015

In the fall of 2010, I developed a sore throat and tonsillitis while on a hike in North Carolina. Although it was not uncommon for me to have sore throats accompanied by some swelling on my tonsils, this time much of the inflammation and swelling were centered on just my left tonsil. After 7 days of...

Gynecologic Cancers

It Takes a Village to Survive Ovarian Cancer 

Dee Sparacio, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  April 15, 2013

My odyssey with ovarian cancer started in May 2005, when I saw my gynecologist for an annual exam and mentioned an odd twinge I had been experiencing on my left side. A subsequent pelvic ultrasound followed by an MRI showed that my ovaries were enlarged, and my doctor warned me that the problem coul...

Breast Cancer

Being Well Informed Helped Me Cope with Breast Cancer

Kate Callahan, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  September 15, 2012

I had been putting off getting a screening mammogram for a few years. When I finally made an appointment in March 2011 and was told that I needed a follow-up sonogram because the test had picked up a suspicious-looking mass in my right breast, I knew I was in trouble. A biopsy of the tumor showed th...

Colorectal Cancer

I’ve Turned My Pain Into a New Life Purpose

Scott Wilson, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  September 25, 2020

The first half of 2016 was arguably the most exciting of my life. My wife, Jaione, and I had decided to leave the United Kingdom and move with our two children, Andrew, then 14, and Alba, then 10, to Denver, where I was taking on a leadership role in corporate affairs for a brewery company. By the b...

Thyroid Cancer

Raising Awareness of Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma

Bill McClain, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  April 25, 2016

I’m used to having bumps and cysts pop up on my body, so when I felt a lump on the front of my throat, just below my Adam’s apple, I brushed it off. But when it was still there 6 months later, I became concerned and decided to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist. He performed a fine-needle aspi...

Breast Cancer

Surviving Cancer Means Making Many Difficult Decisions

AnneMarie Ciccarella, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  March 15, 2012

The best advice I received after getting a diagnosis of stage I invasive lobular carcinoma in my left breast was from my radiologist, who told me, “Remember, be your own best advocate.” Those words have stayed with me through my 6-year struggle with breast cancer and its aftermath. Extraordinary St...