A Survivor’s Story

A Survivor’s Story

When Edwin “Gus” Phillips went for his annual physical, he was feeling fine.

Elevated blood levels for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), however, prompted him to follow up with a visit to his urologist. A few days later, the urologist called to say Phillips had prostate cancer: “I had no idea anything was wrong. I was in shock. Cancer!”

By the time Phillips got the news, he had gone to Florida to spend several months. But he cut his trip short and headed back to Connecticut to talk with his urologist about treatment options.

“Basically, the way he told it, there were no options,” Phillips says. “He said I had to have surgery-a complete prostatectomy. But I didn’t like that option. That was when my golf partner recommended I call Saint Raphael’s for a second opinion.”

Saint Raphael Radiation Oncology Director Joseph Cardinale, M.D., confirmed Phillip’s cancer diagnosis, but also offered treatment options and talked at great length about Phillips’ case. “He is by far the most pleasant doctor I’ve ever met, Phillips recalls. “He spent a good hour and a half with me, and explained that every case of cancer is different, so it’s important to find exactly the right approach to treatment. He took his time helping me explore all my treatment options, and recommended that I have something called IMRT.”

IMRT, or intensity modulated radiation therapy, would aim very small, powerful beams of radiation at the prostate tumor from a number of different angles, thus allowing the radiation to bend around healthy tissue and avoid damaging it.

“I was glad I had an alternative to removal of the prostate gland,” says Phillips. “When I asked about my chances of beating the cancer, Dr. Cardinale was reassuring. ‘We’ll be around together for a long time,’ he told me.

“I won’t say having cancer is any picnic. But the IMRT treatments were easy. I went for 45 treatments, but they only took about 15 minutes each. In order to send the radiation to exactly the right spot, they used something similar to a temporary leg cast to keep me completely still for the short time the treatment took. They can zap the tumor now with incredible precision.”

Phillips appreciated being able to chat with other men who came to Saint Raphael’s for prostate cancer treatment. “We got to know each other while we waited our turn, and it was helpful to compare notes and joke with each other. I had some mild side effects from some of my medications, and was tired for much of the time, but it never stopped me from working at my remodeling business. When I’m done with the medication, Saint Raphael staff say I’ll feel 100 percent again.”

Phillips notes that Saint Raphael’s combination of old-fashioned caring, and up-to-the-minute treatment technologies, would make him recommend the McGivney Center to friends who found themselves with a cancer diagnosis: “The staff was great-I’d bring them donuts or candy sometimes, and they’d fuss over me and gently tease me about how many more treatments I had until ‘graduation.’ Even the volunteers, many of whom had recovered from prostate cancer themselves and could really empathize with me, were wonderful.

“I have a number of friends who have been treated for prostate cancer at other places, and they’ve had more invasive, traditional treatments and less positive outcomes. The treatment I got at the McGivney Center let me keep living pretty normally, and helped me avoid a lot of troublesome side effects and lifestyle changes. I trust my caregivers completely. It’s great to be able to feel confident about something so important.”

Page last updated on Nov. 26, 2008