Christy T. (wife)
From a patient interview on Sept. 5, 2014
Diagnosed: Metastatic Colon Cancer to the Brain and Liver
Ken and Christy went to another center for Ken’s treatment. They were told “You’re done.” Cancer had metastasized into his brain and liver. They felt the life expectancy date was given as if they were ordering a tuna sandwich.
Ken and Christy felt they were being treated like a number, and Ken’s health was going downhill rapidly. Fortunately, they had a doctor advocate, which is quite unusual. The doctor said, “There is only one place I’ll send you and that’s Dr. Chawla.”
Christy shares the couple’s personal story of their experiences at the Sarcoma Oncology Center:
We arrived and we were a little taken aback by the environment because we’d been at a big institute. And it’s been the thing that has saved my husband’s life. Dr. Chawla has the ability to treat the patient individually as opposed to a number. He looks at their holistic health. He has an environment where his entire team cooperates. There’s a level of optimism that you don’t find in any other cancer location that we’ve ever been. We’ve been able to change course and treated by other doctors as a result of Dr. Chawla’s relationships.
My husband loves it here. It’s our safe haven and I can’t say enough. He (Dr. Chawla) was recognized at the European Cancer Conference, which kinda just reinforces for us that he is ‘the best of the best,’ and my husband will tell you that Dr. Chawla is a genius. And we love Vicky, and we love Adrian, love Victor, love Tony, name them all…..Dr. Quon, Dr. Kumar, it’s an amazing team approach.
We came to Dr. Chawla who said no one can estimate how long you’re going to live. And it gave us the confidence to just say ‘that’s a number.’ And my husband was a jock and he’s still athletic. If Ken walked out on the street, no one would know he’s sick. Dr. Chawla gave my husband the belief that we could do it. And May 25th was our life expectancy date and we’re still struggling, and cancer’s a bitch, but we’re still here. We were able to take a trip of a lifetime to Europe this summer. And I attribute that completely to their willingness to say ‘you have to have a life.’ And to be very realistic about balancing life expectations and life dreams with treatment.
It’s a little unconventional around here so the first time we walked in here we were a little taken aback. But now I recognize that ‘deer in a headlight’ when the new patients arrive and I say ‘Let me tell you, you are in the most amazing place.’
State-of-the-art healthcare combined with holistic approach. They look at, in conjunction with our doctors, an endocrinology report, constantly looking at labs, constantly giving me the caregiver, advice on ‘he needs to gain weight,’ ‘try this product,’ ‘have you considered this?’. They’ve told us things that none of the other doctors told us that were simple. That has made my husband’s quality of life significantly better.
The man is a rock star! What I love about coming here. It’s not draconian. You hear more and more stories about people. We have a great friend Dennis who was just in yesterday. Great huge guy…with brain cancer. He had to have brain surgery just like my husband but it had metastasized throughout his whole body. He’s lost a ton of weight, he’s gotten fit. He’s only got a little bit of cancer left on his tongue. He jumped out a plane on Labor Day as his life goal.
And you kinda make friends, it’s an environment where because it is not so segregated, the patients all have a story and none of them are good. And yet they are all really optimistic. And I think that’s because….watch Dr. Chawla walk around the room. He has your case memorized. He knows the names of your doctors, he knows when you had your last scan. He isn’t looking at notes, he isn’t prepping himself. The man can address a myriad of issues for a patient and walk the entire room and know everybody’s situation. I just love him. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.
All the time I meet patients who have gone to other places where their doctors had thrown in the towel. They have been referred by other oncologists who are at a loss. Or patients who have sarcoma where the institute has said ‘We can’t help you. We know nothing about sarcoma.’ And people find him (Dr. Chawla). We’re constantly meeting new patients who were referred by their oncologists because they’ve completely hit a wall, and he pulls the rabbit out of the hat. And look at my husband.
To anyone newly diagnosed with sarcoma, Christy would say:
I know you’re comfortable where you are, a second opinion never hurts. Have the opportunity to come meet someone who may give you a whole new dimension to your treatment and maybe able to save your life. Take a look at the opportunity to have the doctor treat you and your cancer individually as opposed to following the standard protocol at a large institution. There’s no harm in talking to someone else, and you will never regret that you did.