Two years ago, Beverlee London of Toronto was diagnosed with Stage I lung cancer. London was given the news by her lung specialist in Toronto that she had a malignant tumor on her right lung. She also decided at the time to visit the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit for a second opinion, since she had family living in the area.
London, now 67, said that the doctors she visited in Canada wanted to use the strategy of trying to shrink the cancer first through treatment and then possibly use surgery as a follow-up therapy. The doctors she met with at Karmanos took a bolder stance against fighting her lung cancer.
"When you have cancer, time is of the essence," London said. "My doctor at Karmanos said, 'We're very aggressive. We don't mess around.' The doctors said let's just get it out."
So London chose to follow the protocol advised by her Karmanos surgeon Mohammed Jahania, M.D., and underwent a five-hour, invasive surgery that removed the lower lobe of her right lung to eliminate the cancer.
"I have no regrets about having the surgery," she said.
London is one of many Canadian cancer patients who, by virtue of close proximity to the United States border via Detroit, are choosing to get second opinions and subsequent treatments at the Karmanos Cancer Center, one of only 40 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States and the only hospital solely dedicated to treating cancer in Michigan.
London said she's also thankful she had a second resource to draw upon after her surgery was over, considering that her cancer made an unfortunate return in late 2009. She said she went back to her doctor in Toronto for a regular CT scan check-up following her surgery. Radiologists in Canada looked at the scan and said the results were clear of any cancer.
London sent her slides to Dr. Jahania at Karmanos. After reviewing the CT scan, he detected some abnormalities and called her back to Detroit.
"He said he saw something that he didn't like," she said. "He saw microscopic tumors on my trachea and he said the cancer has gone to the lymph nodes. I felt better with two sets of eyes looking at my scans and two brains figuring out my scans. I had to be my own advocate. Everyone that I've met at Karmanos has just been phenomenal."
London has just completed chemotherapy and radiation for her cancer in Toronto and is hopeful for the future.
"I am stronger than I thought I ever was to get through this," she said.
Norman Ordower, a 75-year-old Windsor resident and adrenal cancer survivor, says he's also had a good experience at Karmanos even though he chose to stay in Windsor to have a tumor removed and receive treatments. Ordower consulted with Philip A. Philip, M.D., Ph.D., multidisciplinary team leader of Gastrointestinal Oncology at Karmanos, along with Donald Weaver, M.D., chief of surgery at Karmanos and Wayne State University School of Medicine.
"I went to Karmanos because of its reputation," he said. "The doctor examined me and came up with almost the same opinion that the doctor who operated on me in Windsor did."
Ordower chose to have the surgery that would eliminate his cancer completely, but would require him to wear a permanent colostomy bag. He says today he is fully functional, cancer-free and is looking forward to playing golf.
"Thank God this was the type of cancer that they could clean up," he said. "I'm feeling fine. I can do everything I did before."
Ordower's daughter, Marni Rosenthal of West Bloomfield, Mich., said she wouldn't have considered getting a second opinion for her dad in the states had it not been for a friend who suggested she go to Karmanos.
"It's important to be your own advocate," she said. "For the price of a few hundred dollars, we were able to go to Karmanos and get a second opinion. My dad's cancer wasn't just black and white. The education that was provided to us at Karmanos was invaluable.
"I think it's important for people to know that it's a good option to just go across the border for a second opinion."
The positive experience that both London and Ordower had at Karmanos also has spread down through the generations in their respective households. Best friends Rachel London and Alanna Rosenthal, Ordower's granddaughter, recently celebrated a joint 10-year birthday celebration and raised more than $1,000, which they donated to Karmanos.
"My friend Alanna and I wanted to give our birthday money to a worthy organization," said Rachel London. "Karmanos has helped my grandma a lot and has helped Alanna's grandpa, too. We think the work Karmanos does is great!"
For more information about the Karmanos Cancer Center, please call 1-800-KARMANOS or visit karmanos.org.
BARBARA ANN KARMANOS CANCER INSTITUTE