A diagnosis of cancer is almost always unexpected, often shocking and always traumatic. For Kabita Chakrabarti and her husband, Alok, life was turned upside down in December of 2010. Mrs. Chakrabarti had been having pelvic pain and abnormal bleeding so she scheduled an appointment with her gynecologist. After a diagnostic test, Mrs. Chakrabarti was advised that she needed a hysterectomy. What started as a minimally-invasive procedure soon turned into their worst nightmare.
“The doctor said to me, ‘Your wife has uterine cancer,’” said Mr. Chakrabarti. “We were blindsided.”
Nicholas Taylor, MD, chief of gynecologic oncology for St. Luke’s, was brought in to assist on Mrs. Chakrabarti’s case.
“Her cancer was very advanced and she was fortunate that the tumor was discovered and removed at that time,” said Dr. Taylor.
The extensive surgery was followed by six months of chemotherapy and radiation. From the very beginning, the Chakrabarti’s knew they were in good hands with Dr. Taylor and the team at St. Luke’s.
“The kind of help that Dr. Taylor provided is more than the technical, physical side of treating and removing Kabita’s cancer,” says Mr. Chakrabarti. “What was most impressive and comforting to us was the compassion we were shown.”
“When someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, it is very traumatic – not just for that person, but for the whole family. At that moment, having a doctor and nurses who understand what you are going through and truly care about you is incredibly helpful.”
The Chakrabarti’s were so grateful for the excellent care provided by Dr. Taylor and St. Luke’s that they wanted to do something to give back.
Through St. Luke’s Circle of Hope Society, a special group of individuals who help support St. Luke’s Cancer Center, the Chakrabartis made a monetary contribution.
“We didn’t specify what exactly the gift should be used toward,” said Mr. Chakrabarti. “We just wanted to help ‘pay it forward’ to other patients and families going through similar circumstances.”
Through their generosity, specialized equipment was purchased to help train St. Luke’s residents and fellows in minimally-invasive robotic procedures to treat cancer.
“Having access to this type of educational technology and equipment is what sets St. Luke’s apart and allows us to achieve the highest standards of quality and excellence,” says Dr. Taylor. “By training the doctors of tomorrow with the best equipment today, we are insuring great care for generations to come.”
Mrs. Chakrabarti’s cancer has been in remission for five years and she is happy to have her life back. She enjoys traveling and spending time with her children and family.
“Dr. Taylor and St. Luke’s did so much for us,” says Mr. Chakrabarti. “Our gift was just a small expression of that gratitude.”
St. Luke’s Circle of Hope Society
St. Luke’s Circle of Hope Society (COH) was established to support programs designed to heal patients both physically and emotionally.
Established last year by Gail Evans, associate vice president, development, St. Luke’s University Health Network, St. Luke’s Circle of Hope Society is comprised of individual donors contributing annual gifts of $1,000 or more to benefit St. Luke’s Cancer Center. It began as a way to help cancer patients who wanted to give back in some way because they were grateful for their own cancer care and positive outcomes, like the Chakrabartis.
“I wanted to create a venue through which patients could give back and be part of something bigger than themselves,” says Gail. “Once a person has been touched by cancer, their lives are changed forever and, in many instances, their priorities change as well – they become much more aware of how important it is to have the best technology and cancer treatments available. They’ve experienced first-hand what a first-class cancer program can provide.”
COH members come from all walks of life – young, old, breast cancer patients, GYN cancer patients, patients with melanoma, etc. - all united by their desire to support their doctors and caregivers so they can provide the best cancer care possible.
Beside the obvious desire to build lasting relationships with donors who care about St. Luke’s, the collective funds are used to enhance and improve St. Luke’s cancer services, purchase new equipment and help cancer patients who are having financial difficulties as a result of their diagnosis.
Several pieces of equipment have recently been purchased through COH like the Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT) device that is used by St. Luke’s breast cancer surgeons to deliver the first dose of radiation during a breast lumpectomy. It administers radiation directly to the area where the cancer has been removed and saves the patient weeks of follow-up therapy.
St. Luke’s chief physicist Tianyou Xue, PhD demonstrates the ability of frameless SRS using the Varian TrueBeam™ STx linear accelerator. This technology, which was also funded by COH gifts, is primarily used to treat brain and spine tumors and provides patients a more comfortable and faster treatment and recovery experience.
COH gifts also helped bring the Varian TrueBeam™ STx linear accelerator which uses “Frameless” Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) to St. Luke’s, offering the most advanced and best technology currently available for patients with brain tumors.
With the help of the Chakrabartis and other donors, St. Luke’s obtained the Mimic Virtual Robotic Simulator Suite. The dV-Trainer and Xperience Team Trainer uses 3-D animation and a console that replicates the Da Vinci Robot used by surgical oncologists at St. Luke’s. The equipment can be adapted for all levels of learners with minimal supervision. Surgeons, residents, students and advanced practitioners have access to this training to help them gain experience, develop psychomotor skills and even rehearse patient interaction skills.
Members of St. Luke’s Circle of Hope Society are invited throughout the year to join discussions and informational meetings at the Cancer Center. “We want members of the Circle of Hope Society to feel engaged in the life of St. Luke’s and know that they are an important part of our hospital family,” explains Gail. “Members are invited to attend special events, like our symposium on immunotherapy, and a cocktail reception at oncologist Dr. Lee Riley’s home to see his glassmaking studio.”
Would you like to join the Circle?
If you would like more information about becoming a Circle of Hope Society member, please contact Gail Evans, Associate Vice President, Development, at 484-526-2640 or firstname.lastname@example.org.