Two-time, 15-Year Cancer Survivor Praises Valley Doc
September 11, 2001 means different things to different people. It is the day America, and the world, changed forever. For Glen Rock resident Mary Ann Zino, this date became even more personal because it also marks the beginning of her 15-year fight against cancer, changing the course of her life going forward.
Most every cancer survivor remembers hearing the words for the very first time: you have cancer. They recall where they were, what they were doing, who they were with. It is a moment where time stands still, and from that point on life is different.
When a malignant breast tumor was detected that fall, Mary Ann trusted completely Dr. Thomas Rakowski, who is currently Director of Medical Oncology at The Valley Hospital. When cancer returned 4 years later in the form of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), she readily returned to his office for treatment.
Cancer is an incredibly complicated disease, to put it bluntly, and exciting translational research is helping oncologists better understand how normal cells become tumors, and how tumors grow. Cancer in one individual can present in a dramatically different manner within another, and therefore every tumor should be treated individually. “The disease and treatment can become even more complex when there are multiple malignant tumors, or a secondary cancer not related to the first.” Dr. Rakowski stated. “Our oncology team approaches each and every patient individually, providing personalized, evidence-based treatment plans, so that our patients receive the care that’s right for them.”
Although she was diagnosed with two separate cancers, Mary Ann has had very good outcomes from both treatment plans. “Dr. Rakowski is so intelligent, and because he has so many years of experience, and has treated so many others with CLL, he makes the whole process seem almost like it’s ‘run of the mill’. I am so confident I am getting the very best care with Dr. Rakowski and the rest of the oncology team.” Mary Ann continues, “he never makes me feel rushed, and I really feel like he is looking out for me personally. I have recommended him to my friends, who feel the same way!”
Today, Mary Ann's tests show no evidence of active disease. In order to lower the chance of acquiring an infection, Mary Ann travels 8 miles from her home in Glen Rock to the Blumenthal Cancer Center located in the Luckow Pavilion in Paramus, New Jersey for infusion treatments of gamma gobulin every four to five weeks. This supportive therapy is critical in helping her maintain a healthy level of antibodies to fight infection. When she was undergoing chemotherapy every month at the beginning of her treatment, the infusions were sometimes 3 days in a row and often times took up the better part of a day. Mary Ann acknowledges the benefit of close-to-home care.
Mary Ann brings her hobbies to keep her occupied during her infusion treatments. “As I look around the room at the other patients also undergoing infusions, I think, ‘Okay, this is cancer. We are not like everyone else.’”
No doubt, life changed the day Mary Ann got cancer. But today, this bright blue-eyed woman is a vibrant, active cancer survivor enjoying life with her husband and traveling regularly to visit her daughter’s family in California. Mary Ann looks forward to each tomorrow and is deeply grateful for Valley’s services and compassionate care.
For more information about Valley's award-winning Oncology program, please visit our website or call 201-634-6335 and a representative will be happy to assist you.
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