One day not long after John Hvizda, 72, of Waynesburg, Greene County, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, a neighbor pulled up to his house unexpectedly. Jesse wasn’t a close friend, but more of an acquaintance, and John invited him in, wondering what this visit was about. It was about cancer: Jesse had heard about John’s diagnosis of esophageal cancer and he thought he might be of some help. Jesse himself was recovering from the same cancer and had undergone the exact procedure and treatment that John was facing. John says that Jesse told him what to expect and gave him pointers about how to manage his recovery. It was, John says, enormously reassuring to hear from someone who could speak from experience, and he is grateful that Jesse took the initiative to approach him.
For patients diagnosed with cancer, hope and healing are essential, and can come from many sources. For Rita Trocheck, 52, of Presto, hope and healing came in the form of a beautiful baby boy named Giulian. Giulian, her first grandchild, arrived just a few weeks before her cancer diagnosis. Throughout every step of her long and arduous cancer journey, he has been a bright light, a blessing and an inspiration. He was, she says, “my best medicine,” and a powerful reason to get well. Today, two years after diagnosis, Rita is cancer-free and enjoying every precious moment with Giulian, her husband Vince, her son Vincent, his wife Hillary and son Leonardo, and daughters Desiree (Giulian’s mother) and Nina.
Every year in the fall, Pat Slowey looks forward to getting on his bike and cycling around the region, enjoying the beauty of the season while getting great exercise. Pat, 61, is a retired businessman, father of five and self-described fitness nut who lives in Upper St. Clair with his wife, Annie. He knows to expect a little temporary discomfort when he first gets back on his bike, but in September 2017, that discomfort felt worse than usual and did not resolve.
Do you believe in miracles? Theresa Greenwood does. Her oncologist, Vincent E. Reyes, Jr., M.D., Chief of Hematology & Medical Oncology, does, too, and calls Theresa “my miracle.” A profoundly spiritual woman, Theresa finds wisdom, comfort and hope in prayer, and she needed all of those things when she was diagnosed with advanced cancer. It began one morning when Theresa, 63, who lives in South Fayette, awoke to find a hard lump on her breastbone. She contacted her primary care physician, Donald E. McFarland, D.O., who immediately ordered a mammogram. That led to a sonogram and biopsy, and an unforgettable call from Dr. McFarland: “Theresa, you need to see an oncologist, a cancer specialist.” He referred her to Dr. Reyes.
For John, mornings used to begin with the cheery sounds of his little daughter awakening and bounding down the hall to greet the day and her parents. It was a daily, joyful ritual that gave each day an upbeat beginning, and John looked forward to it. But when he began falling into a deep depression, and his days became dark and difficult, those sounds took on a different meaning and he found himself dreading them. Another day meant facing more pain and anguish, trying to function, and feeling hopeless.
Hollywood has given the world a false and frightening image of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), once known as shock treatments, in movies such as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “The Snake Pit.” These inaccurate depictions, says St. Clair Hospital psychiatrist Kenneth von der Porten, M.D., have done a disservice to psychiatric treatment and to patients who may benefit from ECT.