It has to be hard not to feel sorry for yourself when you are sick and in the hospital….especially when you are someone like Troy Price, who has spent nearly two weeks at Baystate Medical Center’s Oncology Unit. And who could blame him even if he did feel sorry for himself?
But, that’s not the case for Troy, who Maureen Nomakeo, RN, oncology nurse coordinator, referred to as their “chief greeter and PR person” who spends his time walking the hallways of the Oncology Unit talking with patients and their families, other visitors and the caregiving staff.
“It was the worst day of my life and my wife’s birthday,” said Troy about first being diagnosed with ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) back in May 2014. “I received eight treatments of chemotherapy here and three months later in July was in remission until the cancer came back this year in May.”
So, why is Troy so “chipper” on his second visit to the hospital’s Oncology Unit?
A positive attitude
“I think it is very important to let people know that it isn’t all doom and gloom on cancer units….that many of us are strong and optimistic and there are some good times. I think my mood has rubbed off on a lot of people here, and if I can make someone smile, so much the better,” said Troy.
It all began for Troy three years ago while in the middle of coaching his daughter’s soccer team. Suddenly he was struck by what he called “a tremendous pain in my side.” After undergoing tests, the Holyoke man learned he had ALL and found himself on the doorsteps of Baystate Medical Center and its Baystate Regional Cancer Program to begin treatment under the care of Dr. Armen Asik.
“Dr. Asik, he’s an incredible guy, and amazing doctor. He was clear with me from day one, that for patients in my age group, I was 44 at the time, there was a 70 percent chance that the cancer could return. So, I knew going in that there was no guarantee that the cancer would be gone forever. We knew that there were great odds to beat, but with the support of my wife and kids and family it was a no brainer for me to beat,” said Troy.
After his cancer went into remission, Troy continued with a maintenance program at the D’Amour Center for Cancer Care and underwent a bone marrow biopsy every four months to check for any return of the disease.
Looking for a bone marrow match
“Thanks to the protocol that Dr. Asik had me on, my cancer’s return was caught early and we were able to be right on top of it. Once again, I had no reason to think that I would not be 100 percent cured this time around,” said Troy, who is in the process of looking for a match to undergo a bone marrow transplant.
Still, Troy said it was hard hearing that his leukemia had returned.
“It felt like I got kicked in the gut, punched in the teeth. I was shocked and heartbroken. My heart broke for my wife and kids. It is tough to have the people you love see you suffer and know that they can’t do anything about it,” said Troy, who credited his wife with keeping everything afloat at home while he was sick and watching over his health when he returned home from his first hospital stay three years ago.
Although it’s been three years since his stay in the Oncology Unit, Troy said nothing has changed and he still found the same “caring” family waiting for him this month.
You're like family
“From my very first day here three years ago, the nurse who met me made me feel amazingly comfortable. She took a 44-year-old guy, husband, father of two, a working man, who was terrified and calmed me down and made me feel like I was the most important patient on that unit – something I’ve seen the staff do time and time again with their other patients. Their level of commitment is incredible, from the doctors and nurses to the PCTs and housekeeping staff, they are just so devoted to the patients here. The attitude and smiles they bring to work every day is amazing to me,” said Troy.
“You really do feel like part of a family here. We called some of my nurse friends who cared for me at the D’Amour Center for Cancer Care to tell them my cancer had returned, and they came up to the unit to visit me. One of the patient care technicians who cared for me several years ago, Julia Almeida, who works both on the unit and at the cancer center, was away on vacation in Portugal. So, we faced timed her. It turned out that is was midnight there, but she told me it ‘meant the world to her’ that I called and that she would see me soon,” he added.
Troy received a new class of cancer-fighting drug called Blincyto while in the hospital. It’s for people who didn’t get better with treatment, or who got better, but then had a recurrence. Blincyto is a kind of immunotherapy, a drug that uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. It’s given as an infusion in the vein. Once inside the body, the drug acts as a link to bring the leukemia cells into contact with immune cells, which is thought to cause the immune system to attack the leukemia.
For an appointment
To request an appointment with an oncologist at the Baystate Regional Cancer Program, call 413-794-9338.