Dana Calbi - The Comfort of Comprehensive Care
When Dana Calbi learned she had ovarian cancer, she immediately headed to one of the big academic hospitals in New York City. She was encouraged by the wealth of expertise it offered in each area of treatment – surgery, oncology and radiology. But what she didn't realize was that these different specialties often operated independently, leaving large gaps for patients to get lost. Dana fell through the cracks.
When she left the New York hospital, she still had a port implanted in her side that had malfunctioned and blocked a vital chemotherapy drug from entering her abdomen, instead spilling it onto her skin and triggering shock waves of pain. Weak and scared, she learned she was being switched from this treatment, known as intraperitoneal chemotherapy (IP) and vital for most women battling ovarian cancer, to intravenous chemotherapy.
"They discharged me with this port that wasn't working and told me they were going to leave it in for 18 weeks," Dana said. "But because it was there, they couldn't give me IP any more. And when the oncologist came to look at the port, he said the problem was either surgical or mechanical and left. It seemed as if no one talked to each other over there."
Dana was uneasy about going back for treatment and when a trusted holistic physician she consulted told her she really needed IP chemotherapy and recommended Dr. Sharyn Lewin, Dana quickly agreed. Dr. Lewin, a renowned gynecologic oncologist and Medical Director of Gynecologic Oncology at Holy Name Medical Center, saw her the next day.
"Dr. Lewin said I absolutely needed IP therapy and that she could replace the faulty port," Dana said. "And once she had me open to remove the port she also made sure they got all the cancer."
Removing all visible signs of cancer is a labor-intensive surgery that is imperative to helping women beat ovarian cancer. Not every surgeon will examine the entire abdomen, which is necessary, Dr. Lewin said.
"Research shows that an approach that employs aggressive surgery followed by intraperitoneal chemotherapy provides the best outcomes for patients," Dr. Lewin said. "In fact, recent studies show that this approach might cure up to half of women with advanced stage ovarian cancer. I'm pleased that we can provide the best data-driven care for our patients."
She prescribed the vital IP chemotherapy and managed Dana's entire treatment plan, as she does for each of her patients – from diagnosis through surgery and chemotherapy. By overseeing each element of treatment, Dr. Lewin ensures every patient gets the most advanced and appropriate protocol for the type and stage of disease and no one gets lost in the system.
From her first office visit through her final days of treatment, Dana said she felt comfortable and well cared for with Dr. Lewin and her team at Holy Name.
"There were no gaps at Holy Name," she said. â€œHaving one person oversee every aspect of treatment is so important. You feel like everyone is on the same page and knows exactly what is going on with you."
Today, Dana continues to live an active life with her husband in Montclair. A former art and French educator, she now teaches English to adult immigrants, makes jewelry and exercises. When she was first diagnosed, she felt her stamina slipping away and had digestive discomfort – nothing specific, just a dull ache in her abdomen that didnâ€™t dissipate. She also was losing weight and was cranky and irritable.
"The problem with ovarian cancer is the symptoms are so vague," Dana said. "Once I was diagnosed, I figured the best place for treatment would be in New York. Now I know Dr. Lewin at Holy Name has a perfect system because you can't fall through the cracks.