SurvivorNet's Medical Heroes
- March 30 is National Doctors Day and SurvivorNet is highlighting some of our own personal favorite medical heroes.
- SurvivorNet team members share personal accounts of being affected by cancer, and working with oncologists from Cedars Sinai, Johns Hopkins, and Weill Cornell.
There are over 13,000 oncologists practicing in the United States, and SurvivorNet has worked with more than 1,000 of those doctors (and we appreciate every single one of them) but today we are highlighting four of our very own special medical heroes who have personally affected our team members’ lives.
Dr. Farin Amersi, surgical oncologist, Cedars-SinaiRead More
When she first walked into the room and told me I had cancer, before we knew the type, there was compassion and warmth in her eyes, mixed with a serious calm, as she gently started to go through next steps and educated me about the process. I never even knew that there were different types of breast cancer, and hadn’t known a single person with breast cancer at that point.
Dr. Amersi was almost more surprised than I was, considering my age, 39, and the fact that I had no family history. I had also tested negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2, genetic mutations that affect your risk of getting breast cancer. However, my intuition (or paranoia) from the start was telling me that I had cancer, and she said that she had seen that in my eyes during my first visit.
She laughed along with me at the bubbly delivery of my first two questions: “Ok, what’s going to happen with my hair? And can I still go to Paris in December?” She said that there were scalp cooling products to help preserve my hair if I chose to do so, and I am so thankful that she helped with that part of the process. I highly admire all the warriors out there with beautiful bald heads, but for me, saving my hair was important for me to help keep my spirits up. (And she did approve Paris by the way, but I didn’t wind up going because that’s when the pandemic started.)
After we finished with my crash course on my new normal, Dr. Amersi gave me her cell number and told me that I could text or call her at any time with any questions or concerns. Luckily, I had met other angels along the way who helped talk me off a ledge after my initial late-night Google sessions on triple-negative breast cancer—which I highly do not recommend—so I did not abuse the privilege of having her personal contact. But just knowing she was there was an incredible feeling. She certainly went the extra mile.
The appointments and calls started flooding in. Dr. Amersi and her team made me feel safe. They were so proactive and one step ahead of everything; nothing was getting lost in the shuffle. I felt that I was in such good hands. I had plans to go to a Madonna concert that night to celebrate my big day, and I didn’t let my cancer diagnosis stop me from rallying … or throwing down a few White Claws. After all, I truly believe that finding your cancer is a gift.
I had found the lump on my own and had subconsciously put my hand right on it. Dr. Amersi gently held my hand, looked into my eyes, and gave me such a sense of empowerment. “You found your own cancer. You did.”
I may have found my own cancer, but the Cedars-Sinai Medical team saved my life. My oncologist Dr. Philomena McAndrew was phenomenal as well and brightened up my day when she would pop down and check on me during my chemotherapy treatment and deal with my 54,553 questions, but since Dr. Amersi was the first doctor that I had contact with while adjusting to that life-changing news, I chose to highlight that experience.
Dr. Amersi also performed my lumpectomy during the height of the pandemic, and I am eternally grateful to her for getting the tumor out of my body during such a scary time. Since I wasn’t able to have anyone with me for my surgery, she called my mom personally from my bedside as soon as I woke up to give her the news that things were looking very good for me.
One week later, Dr. Amersi told me the words that all cancer patients long for, that I had no evidence of disease. It will be a long road of close surveillance, but so far so good.
-Marisa Sullivan, senior reporter at SurvivorNet
Dr. Amol Narang, radiation oncologist, Johns Hopkins Medicine
When my husband’s colon cancer reappeared in his liver after a prior resection and immunotherapy, we were ready to give up hope. That’s when Dr. Narang saved us.
Dr. Narang determined that radiation treatment for the liver lesions was viable, and when he conveyed the news to us, you would’ve thought we were family. From there on out, in every appointment and treatment, Dr. Narang was thorough, considerate, thoughtful and kind while taking the time to answer all of our questions and ensure we understood the treatment plan.
No question was too trivial or off limits (Yes, Jeff could have a glass of wine after treatment; no, he wouldn’t be penalized if he twitched during the part of the treatment where he had to hold his breath for 45 seconds.)
Where other health care providers had to be pestered for intel or that additional refill, Dr. Narang reached out to us after hours to relay information, including once on a holiday weekend, and he made sure to check in with us regularly during radiation to see how Jeff was feeling.
In what were extraordinarily difficult times for us, Dr. Narang made sure to put us at ease with his expertise and kindness.
-Alison Maxwell, executive editor at SurvivorNet
Dr. Manish Shah, oncologist, Weill Cornell Medicine
My mother has metastatic bile duct cancer, also known as cholangiocarcinoma.
Dr. Heather Yeo from Weill Cornell put my family in touch with Dr. Manish Shah, an oncologist who also works at Weill Cornell. Dr. Shah has been amazing with his compassion and care for my mom. She’s 81 years old with early stage dementia, and when she was diagnosed two years ago, surgery was not an option.
She had initially started chemotherapy (really rough on her), so Dr. Shah recommended radiation, which actually shrunk the main tumor. She then went back on chemotherapy last fall, and it was horrible, so Dr. Shah recommended it stop. She is now being monitored with CT scan and MRI every 6 weeks or so, and Dr. Shah is patient and courteous with us all, especially my mom.
It’s a great feeling to find a doctor who really pays attention to your needs and gives you the time to absorb news and give you time to make critical decisions. My mom is doing fine now, and we will assess her needs after every scan.
-Sean Smith, senior adviser at SurvivorNet
Dr. Heather Yeo, colorectal surgeon, Weill Cornell Medicine
SurvivorNet has a group of extraordinary medical advisors, all of whom have given their time and their expertise to help tens of thousands of people make better decisions about their care and feel a little less alone.
One of these advisors is Dr. Heather Yeo, who treats colorectal cancer patients at Well Cornell Medicine in New York City. One of the things that we’ve experienced with Dr. Yeo, and some things her patients tell us, is that she has a remarkable ability to connect with them and address their concerns, while also displaying world-class mastery of her field. Patients tell us that when you talk to Dr. Yeo, there’s a sense of comfort because she is such an expert in her field and she also is such a great human.