St. Luke's University Health Network

Bob Deets

Bob Deets

Lung Cancer - My Journey

Bob was stunned by the lung cancer
diagnosis and learned about treatment
options at St. Luke's Cancer Center.

He said, "I feel very blessed to have
had the treatment that I did."

Bob Deets of Hellertown lightheartedly credits his wife Jeanne with getting diagnosed with lung cancer early. “I caught her cold and the lingering cough that came with it,” he says. “I didn't have any pain, or blood, but I couldn't get rid of the cough, so I went to the doctor.”

Stunned by Lung Cancer Diagnosis

Nothing seemed to offer relief, so Bob was sent for a chest X-ray and then a CT scan in Spring 2009. “I was really rattled to learn I had lung cancer; I just couldn't believe it,” says Bob, an avid racquetball player who has played the game regularly for the past 20 years and lives a healthy lifestyle.

Bob, who doesn't smoke today, admits he smoked cigarettes occasionally in his late teens and early twenties, and only on rare occasions through the years when he was out socializing. “I didn't smoke much, but I always felt guilty about it afterward. Looking back, I would have preferred to have never tried it.”

Several members of Bob's family also smoked growing up, so he was exposed to second-hand smoke as a child. “My dad and brothers would sit around the kitchen table playing cards and smoke,” he says. “There always was this ‘blue cloud’ above the table. Back then people weren't aware of the dangers of smoking like they are today.”

Reassured by Team of Doctors at St. Luke's

Stunned by the lung cancer diagnosis and confused about his options for treatment, Bob sought answers and help. “At first I resented it, getting lung cancer,” says Bob, who then turned to pulmonologist Dr. Ross Futerfas for his recommendation. “I asked him, ‘If you had what I have where would you go?’” He gave Bob some recommendations, including thoracic surgeon Dr. William Burfeind at Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgical Associates of St. Luke's.

When Bob called to make the appointment, Lori [Shelly], the practice coordinator, reassured him, saying, “We have a whole team of doctors here to take care of you.”

“Lori's attitude and reassurance was really important to me,” says Bob. “Lori put me at ease; she made me feel good right from the start. When Jeanne and I met with Dr Burfeind, I learned that this attitude is the climate of the whole office; the staff is terrific.”

Surgery Done through Smaller Incisions

Bob was relieved to learn the surgery could be done thoracoscopically. “They would remove the lobe through small incisions,” he says. “I did not need to be cut open; that was huge.”

Bob's surgery was performed at St. Luke's University Hospital - Bethlehem Campus. He came through with flying colors. Due to the size of the tumor, Dr. Burfeind also recommended a four-week course of chemotherapy treatment following the surgery. Medical oncologist Dr. Sanjiv Agarwala treated him on a national clinical trial testing two chemotherapy regimens.

“Bob understood the concept of clinical trials,” says Dr. Agarwala. “Patients who participate in trials may not only be helped by the treatment they receive, but also contribute to our overall knowledge and progress against cancer. By accepting to participate, he has helped further the cause of science and helped other people with cancer.”

“Before going on the chemo, I built myself up from the surgery by walking a mile every day, eating right and staying positive,” says Bob. “Your whole attitude is really important when going through something like this. I have a competitive nature and I was determined to beat it. Plus, I had good doctors, supportive friends and a strong faith. I had a lot of people praying for me.”

Today, Bob has a new appreciation for life. I focus on what's most important, stress less about work and I'm a crusader against smoking. I won't go near second-hand smoke,” he says.

While Bob's surgery was successful, his cancer treatment continues even now, as additional cancer later appeared on a follow-up CT scan.