Dean A. lives with his wife in a small town in northeastern Ohio. Dean is a self-employed handyman, and he owns and operates an electronic security company—a business he started after beating cancer! He is also a reverend. His spiritual faith runs deep, and he tries to offer hope and support to all he meets, just as God has done for him over the years.
His battle against cancer began innocuously and painlessly, with only some trouble swallowing when he ate. "I thought it was nothing," Dean says. "I did notice I was losing a little bit of weight and getting tired easily, and you just write stuff like that off as part of getting older, but my wife made me go to a doctor." The doctor suggested an endoscopy, which identified an ulceration in Dean's stomach. The next step, a biopsy, disclosed a stage III cancerous stomach tumor, which had grown up around his esophagus and was causing his difficulty swallowing.
"We called CTCA and they had us on a plane three days later [to travel to the center in Zion, Illinois]. They arranged everything, and drove us to the hospital from the airport." Dean soon discovered that the CTCA approach is different. His treatment plan was developed not by a single doctor but in collaboration with a team of specialists who shared their knowledge and skills. "At CTCA, they'd put us in a room and the doctor would see us, and then they'd send in the naturopathic doctor, and then the nutritionist, and then the pastoral care. We didn't have to traipse all over the place. We just stayed in the same room, and everybody came to see us. That’s very convenient and comforting," Dean says.
Because of the cancer's advanced stage, the CTCA doctors prescribed chemotherapy first. Dean completed a 13-week course of drug treatment, flying to Chicago for three days every three weeks. Dean favors the three-day regimen over the "all-in-one-day" option: the body tolerates the drugs better and the patient doesn't feel so sick. When chemo was over, Dean's physicians did a number of scans and tests. These showed shrinkage of his tumor and no "live" cancer, but his medical team wanted to do exploratory surgery to make sure he was cancer-free.
Dean woke up from the surgery to find that half his stomach and part of his esophagus had been removed. "I wasn't in shock or anything at the outcome," he says. "They found a couple of live spots, so they had to take it. They had to do what they had to do."
Dean recovered in the hospital for a week before returning home to Ohio to recuperate, but his treatment had not yet ended. After the surgery, the doctors recommended radiation therapy. Dean replied, "You’ve got to be kidding. Why?" They explained that removing every cancer cell surgically is nearly impossible. When the capillaries heal from surgery and reattach to the remaining microscopic spots of cancerous cells, blood can start feeding those cells again, and a tumor can start to grow. That explanation made sense to Dean, so he chose to go ahead with the radiation.
For his radiotherapy, Dean lived in the CTCA guesthouse for six weeks. His treatment took five minutes daily, and he had the rest of his time free. Dean soon learned that staying in the guest quarters with other patients had many advantages. "Some of the folks had musical instruments, and almost every night we'd gather in a room and play and sing songs, and it was super. I very much enjoyed my time there. I started a Bible study while I was there, and they carried it on for a few years afterward," he says.
Dean's battle against cancer lasted a total of ten months. "I don't have nearly the stress that I used to," he says. "I feel better today than before I had cancer." In the ten years since his treatment, Dean has been sick only once—with nothing more troublesome than a cold. He's leaner and more energetic than he was before treatment, and stronger, too. "You'd be amazed at what this skinny little guy can do," he quips. His only prescription drug is an antacid, and he can eat whatever he likes, although he admits that wolfing food or indulging in sweets can cause him discomfort. For medical follow-up, Dean goes back to CTCA once a year.
Last updated on 4 January 2016
Before Leaving the Hospital: Get All the Paperwork
Impatient to be gone, and often suffering the woozy side effects of surgery and post-operative pharmaceuticals, patients too often find themselves back at home later, missing important documents that could have more easily been obtained on site. So before you hightail it out of your hospital or clinic, be sure that you have all of your important documents.
Generally, larger hospitals provide complete medical documentation as part of the standard exit procedure. However, some smaller clinics may rely more on verbal instructions, and they are less likely to build and maintain a dossier on your case.