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Stories of Survivorship

Alberto: Head and Neck Cancer Survivor

Alberto: Head and Neck Cancer Survivor

Alberto Centeno had already been through a bout of stomach cancer in 2008. But in 2013, new symptoms brought him to his local ear, nose, and throat doctor, who scheduled an appointment for him with Dr. Benjamin Judson, Assistant Professor of Surgery (Otolaryngology) and head and neck surgeon at Yale Cancer Center. Alberto’s diagnosis: throat cancer. Surgery was needed, followed by daily treatment with radiation therapy.

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Bill: Esophageal Cancer

When Bill Hadovski talks about his cancer journey, he rarely uses the pronoun ‘I.’ Instead, he says, ‘we,’ for he and his wife, Johann, who together have pledged to each other that whatever health challenges come their way, they would get through them as a team.

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Bill: Esophageal Cancer
Cindy: Lung Cancer Survivor

Cindy: Lung Cancer Survivor

Patients sometimes think of a clinical trial as something to consider only after all other treatment options are exhausted. But the wealth of knowledge that researchers and physicians at Smilow Cancer Hospital have accumulated through their extensive clinical trial portfolio has enabled them to offer trials to patients earlier in the course of their cancer – patients like Cynthia Bartley.

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Dina: Melanoma Survivor

Admittedly, Dina Lynn Sienkiewicz was a terrible patient. “I worried. I panicked. I was an emotional disaster. I put all of my nurses and caretakers through the ringer, but it was Dr. Mario Sznol who got through to me. His emotional support and great sense of humor, and simply, his willingness to explain where I am today with this disease and where I will go in the future—it carried me through this experience.”

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Dina: Melanoma Survivor
Mark: Head and Neck Cancer Survivor

Mark: Head and Neck Cancer Survivor

Despite having spent 40 years in the research laboratories at Yale in the Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation and well versed in the inner workings of the human body, Dr. Mark Horowitz was shocked to learn that his diagnosis of head and neck cancer was caused by a virus known as the human papillomavirus (HPV). Dr. Horowitz was having trouble breathing and sought the advice of an urgent care doctor, who recommended he get a neck ultrasound. The ultrasound revealed a neck mass and a biopsy later confirmed that it was HPV-positive squamous cell carcinoma.

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Fred: Prostate Cancer Survivor

My PSA had been high for awhile so in 2002 my doctor recommended I see a urologist. A biopsy was performed and at the age of 54 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Without my routine physicals I probably wouldn’t be alive today. We were able to catch the cancer early, and that made all the difference.

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Fred: Prostate Cancer Survivor
Judy: Thyroid Cancer Survivor

Judy: Thyroid Cancer Survivor

Judy, a registered nurse at Yale-New Haven Hospital, wasn’t entirely shocked when she was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer in late October. Having worked at Yale since 1982 and as a nurse since 1976, she has cared for hundreds of cancer patients over the years; she understands first hand that cancer can happen to anyone.

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Leslie: Sarcoma Cancer Survivor

Leslie Riley loves the outdoors. An avid hiker in good health, she is also a wife with a blended family that includes two daughters, two sons, and a granddaughter. So, when she felt a strange twinge in the back of her leg in April of 2016, she was concerned. The twinge became especially uncomfortable when she was driving her car, an important part of her life. Her family doctor ordered an MRI to learn more.

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Leslie: Sarcoma Cancer Survivor
Marc: Cutaneous T Cell Lymphoma Survivor

Marc: Cutaneous T Cell Lymphoma Survivor

When Marc St. Martin was diagnosed with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) in 2007, he had no way of knowing the impact it would have throughout his family. Over the course of five years, Marc underwent treatment with spot radiation therapy, total skin electron beam therapy, and chemotherapy, all in the hopes of achieving a durable remission.

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Marissa: Liver Cancer Survivor

It was apparent from the start that Marissa Antonio’s case was unique. She was just 39 and a new mother when an MRI revealed a 19cm tumor in her liver, and unlike with most cases, she did not have any complicating disease in the liver, such as cirrhosis. Marissa knew something was not right when she started having pain on her right side and was more tired than normal.

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Marissa: Liver Cancer Survivor
Mary: Endometrial Cancer Survivor

Mary: Endometrial Cancer Survivor

In 2012, Mary Di Gioia, a grandmother of four was working as a social worker when she began experiencing abdominal pain. “I ignored it for a while,” said Ms. Di Gioia, who has since retired. But when the discomfort persisted, she went for an ultrasound and was eventually diagnosed with endometrial cancer.

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Mary Lynne: Ovarian Cancer Survivor

Mary Lynne is no stranger to ovarian cancer. Her mother, when she was in her 70s, was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer and died from it six months later.

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Mary Lynne: Ovarian Cancer Survivor
Paul: Esophageal Cancer Survivor

Paul: Esophageal Cancer Survivor

Paul was having difficulty swallowing and decided to go to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. After a physical examination, he was prescribed medication for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). After a few weeks without relief, the specialist ordered a variety of diagnostic tests to determine if the problem could easily be solved, allowing him to swallow normally.

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Peter: Bladder Cancer Survivor

As part of a groundbreaking clinical trial, Peter Ehmer, 44, received treatment for his diagnosis of stage III bladder cancer. Prior to this, he had received three months of chemotherapy, had surgery to remove his bladder and prostate and participated in a clinical trial. While on this trial, two of his lymph nodes continued to grow.

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Peter: Bladder Cancer Survivor
Richard: Melanoma Survivor

Richard: Melanoma Survivor

For the past 16 years, Dick Metz has experienced the ups and downs of a cancer diagnosis. He has had clean scans and bad scans, and has experienced joys and disappointments of therapy results, but he has never faltered.

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Roberta: Breast Cancer Survivor

When Roberta Lombardi was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2016, she had no idea her journey would result in a new organization, Infinite Strength, -- the foundation she created whose mission is to make medical treatments more accessible for all breast cancer patients. The non-profit group is also dedicated to helping Smilow Cancer Hospital patients offset costs not covered by insurance, which can make all the difference in the healing process, both physically and emotionally.

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Roberta: Breast Cancer Survivor
Tasha: Leukemia Survivor

Tasha: Leukemia Survivor

It wasn’t uncommon for Tasha Edens, a manager of a group home, to experience minor bruises while at work, it was part of the job. However, one day in early October of 2012, she came home and noticed deep purple bruising on her legs.

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Valencia: Brain Cancer Survivor

From the time she was a little girl in Bridgeport, CT, Valencia Opont was prone to headaches. “I’d get them a lot but it wasn’t a big deal,” said the 27-year-old nursing assistant. “My mother would give me Tylenol and they went away.”

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Valencia: Brain Cancer Survivor
Walter: Lung Cancer Survivor

Walter: Lung Cancer Survivor

Back in 2014, Walter Pearsall noticed some blood when he coughed, but he had not experienced any other symptoms or indications that something serious might be wrong. His wife immediately brought him to the local ED where they ran tests and ultimately gave him devastating news, in front of his wife and some of his children, that he had lung cancer and most likely would not survive.

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Wendy: Breast Cancer Survivor

Wendy Chambers leads a blessed life – she has a wonderful family, a collection of friends that have been gathered over her lifetime, and she’s had a long and successful career in consumer insights at several major corporations – most recently at Pepperidge Farm. She is also a two-time breast cancer survivor.

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Wendy: Breast Cancer Survivor
Wright Siblings: Sickle Cell Disease

Wright Siblings: Sickle Cell Disease

When Sharee Edmonds learned that three of her children had sickle cell disease, she prayed for a miracle that would cure them. That miracle came when her daughter Unity, now 17, was born. In an incredibly rare occurrence, her bone marrow was a perfect match for all three of her siblings.

Read the Wright Sibling's Story