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Bob Showalter describes himself as a fanatic when it comes to history. During a project researching his family genealogy, he discovered that history does indeed repeat itself. While tracing his family tree, Bob learned that his family had a history of cancer, inspiring him to stay vigilant with annual physicals and screenings. "I figured odds were, I'd get cancer too." Those unhappy odds played out in September 2009, when Bob, who was 61, received his own diagnosis. But in his case, with the help of Fox Chase Cancer Center doctors Rosalia Viterbo and Shelly Hayes, the story has a positive ending.
Thanks to leading edge robotic surgical techniques and targeted radiation therapy, Bob has been cancer free since September 2010. His doctor became suspicous after a blood test taken during a routine physical revealed an elevated PSA level. A biopsy confirmed the diagnosis - Bob had stage 3 prostate cancer.
"I knew that Fox Chase was a premier cancer treatment center."
"I knew that Fox Chase was a premier cancer treatment center," said the Doylestown, PA, civil engineer and father of 3. "I had a close friend who had just gone through the same exact thing, and had gone to Fox Chase. He just raved about Dr. Viterbo. I felt that a suburban hospital wouldn't have the knowledge and focus of Fox Chase, where all they do is treat cancer. I wanted to be treated by someone who had done the procedure thousands of times, not just a few times a month."
Bob's cancer was aggressive, and had spread by the time he had his surgery in December 2009. "I was in and out in one day - with minimal incisions. It was amazing," he recalled. Dr. Viterbo completed her fellowship in a leading robotic oncology program at City of Hope National Medical Center in Los Angeles. She has personally performed more than 1,000 robotic surgeries. "The recovery time was pretty quick. I was back to work in less than a month." Although Bob had some concerns about bladder control, his function was back to normal in a matter of weeks.
Although his PSA was normal after surgery, Dr. Viterbo recommended additional treatment because the cancer was aggressive and a lymph node was found that had cancer. Bob met with Dr. Hayes, radiation oncologist and director, Fox Chase Cancer Center Buckingham, where he began a 6 week course of daily radiation.
"Dr. Hayes and her staff are just wonderful. My radiation really was like going to lunch with friends."
"Fox Chase Buckingham is 15 minutes from my office," he said. "I'd go over at lunch, lay down for a while and then head back to work." Happily, he experienced no side effects during his treatment. "Dr. Hayes and her staff are just wonderful," he said. "My radiation treatment really was like going to lunch with friends."
"Dr. Viterbo is not only professional, she's very warm and caring."
"Dr. Viterbo is not only professional, she's very warm and caring." She also had a good sense of humor. Bob, a bit of a prankster, hid a battery lit red Rudolph nose in his pocket during a follow up office visit. "She asked me if I had any problems and I said everything is ok, except for this red throbbing sensation that just won't go away. She cracked up."
A moment of levity is welcome during cancer treatment. Bob is the first to admit that the entire experience was scary both for him and his family. The pay off? Post radiation, Bob's PSA levels aren't even measurable - his treatment was a success. "Back when my grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer, there wasn't anything they could do. He just kept farming until he died. I consider myself lucky to have access to the best doctors and latest technology at Fox Chase."