In 2005 Bruce Jacobson was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, one that could be tough to beat. Today the 70-year-old lifelong Rhode Islander is happy to say, "I'm a three-year survivor of biliary duct cancer."
Jacobson learned that he had cancer after seeing his doctor about perplexing weight loss. After testing, his doctor told him that the weight loss was caused by cancer of the biliary ducts, which carry bile from the liver to the small intestine to assist with digestion. The tumor blocks the ducts, resulting in malnutrition.
Like many cancer patients, Jacobson describes his diagnosis as a life-altering experience. He describes the moment he heard his diagnosis as world-shattering. But you would never know that to speak with him. He is a plain-speaking, direct and pragmatic man, who met his diagnosis with resolve and determination. He says that once he adjusted to the fact that he had this disease that required prompt treatment, he realized, "You need to go to the best possible place that you can go. I can't take second-best here. I've got to find somebody who's really going to do the job and do it well."And for him, the best turned out to be the Comprehensive Cancer Center. Jacobson's internist and gastroenterologist were at Rhode Island Hospital, so seeking treatment at the center was a smooth transition. He says his only big decision was whether to get a second opinion. But he knew that time was of the essence, so he didn't want to postpone treatment. He had confidence in his physicians and at that point decided, "We'll do it, and I had it done the next morning."
The surgery required a 10-day hospital stay, followed by recuperation at home. When Jacobson was again feeling strong, in December 2005, he started his visits to the Comprehensive Cancer Center, where he says he was treated royally. Of his decision to be treated there, he says, "I came to the Comprehensive Cancer Center and am very very thankful, and glad that I did."
The post-surgery treatments that would help ensure full recovery from the cancer consisted of a six-week round of chemotherapy, followed by 28 days of radiation, and then another final round of chemotherapy. Such a sustained course of treatments meant that the Comprehensive Cancer Center was a home away from home for a while. In describing that period of time, Jacobson says, "Dr. Safran was my oncologist; Dr. DiPetrillo was my radiologist. I can't say enough about them and their staff. They were just tremendous!" He describes the staff as very efficient, but also friendly, warm and able to find gentle humor in the daily routines of the resolute battle against a formidable disease. In Jacobson's words, "They made what's really an unbearable situation into something you could get through."
He also appreciated the little things that add up to a comforting environment that minimizes stress. Chemotherapy was administered in a comfortable chair in a comfortable room, where he could bring in a cup of coffee and read a book. He describes the room as a "very relaxing, non-hospital-like setting."
Though the staff was upbeat, they never offered false hope. Jacobson says that they were very realistic and you always knew where you stood, but they also let you know you were making progress. The doctors, nurses, and technicians referred to themselves as a team, and they functioned as a team. This made for seamless transitions. Jacobson also remarks that he was impressed with the computer system that tracked everything online. It was very easy to go from one doctor to another. If he had an appointment at 10 a.m and another at 2 p.m., staff at the afternoon appointment already knew everything that happened at the morning appointment.
To others who may have just learned of a cancer diagnosis, Jacobson affirms that it can be a world-shattering experience. But he urges them to remember that most cancers caught early can be treated, and survival rates go up each year. Progress is made every day.
Regarding his own future, he modestly hopes that it holds a lot of years, good health, and many more warm winter months in Florida, saying, "and Lord willing, I'll be here a long time to enjoy them. That's my goal, that's my plan."
To underscore his appreciation for the treatment he received at the center, Jacobson goes on to say, "My children all live in Maryland, and they all urged me to have a second opinion. So I rounded up all my records here and had them forwarded to Johns Hopkins. I met with one of the head oncologists there, and he said 'I want to assure you that had you come here, with the exact same thing at the exact same time, we would have done the exact same procedure…we would have done absolutely nothing differently. It would have been the same here as it was there…I don't think you could have gone anywhere else and done any better.' That's a pretty good recommendation for Rhode Island Hospital and the Comprehensive Cancer Center."
Reflecting on the personalized care he received at the center, Jacobson adds, "I think the Comprehensive Cancer Center is top-notch. I'm sure there are people from Massachusetts who come here. It's a smaller, more comfortable, more friendly place than Boston. I don't think you're going to get better service anywhere. I'm very pleased with the Comprehensive Cancer Center, and can't say enough good things about it.
"And-that valet parking-a nice touch! A very nice touch!"
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