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Valley’s Neurosurgical Team: Right on the Money!

The summer of 2014 started as it usually does for 61-year old Midland Park resident James Hardt: tending to his lawn and garden with his wife Cindy, barbecuing with neighbors, and planning weekend jaunts to their beach bungalow with kids and grandchildren.    

Instead, that summer brought an unusual sequence of events.  

Over Memorial Day weekend, Jim was changing the garden ties – a task he has performed in the past without much effort – and became surprisingly fatigued.  Jim is in good physical shape, exercising regularly and staying active, so this sensation was unusual.

“Either those ties are getting heavier, or I am getting older,” Jim recalls thinking to himself. So he chalked it up to age. 

But as the summer progressed, more warning signs appeared. His stamina was intermittent, and for the first time in his life, he was getting headaches, which were increasing in both frequency and strength.  

In late August, as Jim enjoyed the afternoon in Ocean Beach Island with his family, he suddenly became nauseous from pulling himself up out of his beach chair.  This was the moment that Jim committed to making an appointment to get checked out.  

It came as a tremendous shock when he learned from the MRI results that he had a glioblastoma…a type of brain cancer.   

Following the direction of his neurosurgeon Dr. Anthony D’Ambrosio, Director of The Valley Hospital’s Neuro-Oncology Disease Management Team, Jim wasted no time.  Ninety eight percent of the glioblastoma was removed with an advanced surgical technique known as “stereotactic navigation” on September 16.  The remaining cancer was then treated with chemotherapy delivered, in the form of a pill, and highly specialized radiation treatments.  

“We used a combination of very sophisticated radiation techniques.” said Chad DeYoung, MD, Co-Medical Director of Valley Hospital’s Department of Radiation Oncology and Co-Director of the Gamma Knife Center.  “For James, we employed a combination of Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) and Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT).  This combination allowed me to target the residual disease in his brain with millimeter accuracy to ensure the radiation hit the intended target but spared normally functioning adjacent brain.  Not allowing radiation to hit sensitive areas of the brain, like the hippocampus, minimizes the short term and long term impact of treatment on James, and is the reason he continues to function at such a high level today.”

Fortunately, because he has remained fit throughout most of his lifetime, Jim tolerated the subsequent chemotherapy and radiation like a champ, experiencing minimal side effects.

The Valley-Mount Sinai Comprehensive Cancer Care Program at the Blumenthal Cancer Center offers patients the entire spectrum of services using the most modern, state-of-the-art equipment.  At the same time, Valley is known for delivering patient care with genuine compassion, empathy and dignity. 

“I didn’t need a second opinion,” Jim remarked. “They were right on the money!”

As the long standing manager of an autobody shop in Hawthorne where he has worked for the past 36 years, Jim knows that the shop just doesn’t run the same way in his absence.   Valley’s compassionate staff listened to his concerns. 

“I need to get to the shop, Boulevard Body and Fender, pretty early, and Wendy Dunn went above and beyond to accommodate my schedule and get me to work on time,” Jim explained. 

By the next summer, Jim had finished treatment.  His strength had returned, the headaches ceased, and he was back to his normal routine of yardwork, gardening and spending free time with his loved ones.   

“My friends and family were incredibly supportive through it all!” he recounts.  Jim has been married to his wife Cindy for 40 years, and has 2 daughters and a son.  “My kids, and my sons-in-law, they were all wonderful.”  

As Jim describes his five young grandchildren, his bright green eyes shine and a wide grin spreads across his face.  Thanks to the precision and expertise of Valley’s oncology team, this husband, father and grandpa will continue to build memories, and sandcastles, with them for many more years.