Bert Maher says that he never smoked, never drank, ate well, and exercised. He started and ran his own business, which he enjoys to this day. He loves traveling and cars, and used to race when he was younger and his reflexes were sharper.
Life was good, until his wife became ill. Maher cared for her until she died. He himself was always strong and healthy, and never felt the need to see a doctor. But after his wife's death, his nephew convinced him to make sure that they wouldn't lose him also.
Maher had a medical check-up, and was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Unfortunately, by the time the prostate cancer was discovered, it had already spread to his seminal vesicles and lymph nodes.
Maher says he saw a number of doctors at various hospitals after the diagnosis. It was the reputation of Thomas DiPetrillo, MD, a radiation oncologist, that brought him to the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Rhode Island Hospital. DiPetrillo is an expert in intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), a revolutionary new radiation therapy that provides better tumor control with less toxicity.
Having seen a number of doctors before turning to the center, Maher had experiences that did not inspire him to easily trust physicians. But he was immediately disarmed by DiPetrillo, whose kindness, patience, and diligence in explaining every aspect of the disease and treatment reassured Maher that he was at the right place. And, he says, "I really liked the guy." Maher had first heard about DiPetrillo from his tailor. When DiPetrillo introduced himself to Maher he said, "I've been told that if anything happens to you, I'll be the worst dressed doctor in the country."
When he first arrived at the center, Maher says that he was treated so well that he felt like royalty. As the weeks passed, he noticed that the staff treated everyone who came there with the same high level of care and kindness. He says that all of the doctors and nurses were wonderful, and adds, "When you fear you might die, you appreciate the kindness."
After his radiation treatment at Rhode Island Hospital, Maher received chemotherapy under the care of oncologist Anthony Mega, MD at The Miriam Hospital. Again Maher remarks on the excellent care and warm environment of the center. He says that throughout the process, DiPetrillo and Mega kept in close touch coordinating his care.
Before starting chemotherapy, Maher had sought a second opinion at another hospital, where he was advised to wait a while after radiation therapy before starting chemotherapy. But his otherwise excellent health was a blessing in this regard. DiPetrillo and Mega explained that because Maher was so strong, he could withstand the rigors of both treatments in succession, which would provide a more effective means of destroying the cancer. Maher trusted his team and did not hesitate, saying "Let's go!" He also appreciated how convenient it was to have everything you need-doctors, blood work, dietician-all in one place. "One-stop shopping," says Maher.
Throughout the many months of treatments, Maher was a diligent patient. He still exercised and ate well, and made sure that he understood his medical condition and treatments. He says that his doctors were excellent in explaining every detail, including side effects, to him. Maher says that knowing what to expect helps you not panic.
Of his experience battling cancer, he says matter-of-factly, "There are days you say, 'I just want to stay in bed,' but you know that's your downfall…there's no magic pill to make you better. You get out of life what you put into it." He credits his doctors with helping him keep his spirits up, with encouraging him to keep living his life and to continue doing everything that he did before. He says that they still follow up to make sure he's well. Summing up, he says, "Because of the care I got at the Comprehensive Cancer Center, I beat cancer. And the quality of my life is back to normal."
About his doctors, Maher says he couldn't have asked for more. "I feel I'm blessed. I got the best doctors as far as I'm concerned. I talked to a lot of doctors. And these two guys, I can't say enough about them."
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