I was distraught when the doctors informed me in January 2014 about my stage IV prostate cancer diagnosis. As I neglected to undergo annual check-ups, which would have revealed the onset of prostate cancer at an earlier, more treatable stage, I was deeply regretful. During the first seven years that passed since my diagnosis, I was treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, where I received immunotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and other treatments that helped extend my life.
Having exhausted all treatment options in the United States, I was encouraged by my doctors to pursue a novel treatment called Lutetium therapy. However, since Lutetium therapy is not available in the United States, they suggested I travel to Israel for treatment.
Although I was concerned with undergoing treatment in another country, mainly due to the language barrier, Israel is a friend of America, so I felt confident being in the company of friends. One of the things that allayed my fears was the excellent communication I experienced with the Medical Tourism office at Sheba before I left for Israel.
It’s hard to put into words the level of respect and admiration I have for Ron, Galit, and Hanan. Ron, my case manager, shepherded me from the beginning via email and phone calls and responded to all my questions swiftly and competently. Galit, my medical coordinator, was at my side for every step of the way and was available 24 hours a day.
On the night of our flight out of John F. Kennedy airport, my wife was not allowed to board the plane due to a paperwork issue. It was then that Hanan, my contact in Sheba’s call center, literally drove to Ben Gurion Airport at 5 am to find a Delta Airlines representative and try to get her on that flight! Although unsuccessful, he went WAY above and beyond the call of duty to help us. I was absolutely delighted with Ron, Galit, and Hanan.
Shortly after my arrival in Israel, I fractured my hip and spent six days at Sheba getting a partial hip replacement. I needed another surgery and was amazed by the speed with which they scheduled the surgery – it was on the next day! The wait time was minimal, both surgeries were successful, and I was impressed by the care with which everything was handled. During my 3.5-month stay in Israel, there were six instances where I had to visit Sheba’s emergency room, and each time I was given a room and seen by someone to assess what was wrong with me within 30 minutes. The emergency rooms in America are not as efficient as the ones at Sheba, and the speed with which I was treated in Sheba’s emergency rooms was spectacular. What impressed me most about the medical staff is the level of cooperation between doctors, nurses, and caretakers. Oftentimes, if we had a question, our nurse would simply call the doctor on the spot to get an answer. That was shocking to us.
I have spoken very highly of Sheba, so much so that my local doctor in upstate New York has referred another patient to Sheba for the same treatment I underwent: Lutetium therapy. I would absolutely recommend Sheba to anyone in need of medical care.
I have so much more joy in every day that God has given me since my diagnosis. It is not as if I didn’t appreciate life before, but it is so much richer and more meaningful now to have the freedom to think about and enjoy the small things. I have six children, and spending time with my kids has become so much more important to me. Relationships get magnified when you’re faced with cancer, and while I do have a garden which I enjoy tending to, friends and family are my top priority these days.
A sense of hopelessness overtook me the first week after my diagnosis: I was depressed and filled with gloom, but the medical community has many answers and treatments available for those willing to seek them out. When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, I was given around a year to live. That was over seven years ago, but my story proves that there are options if you want to find them, not just in your local community, but nationally and even internationally.