Bill McNew

  |   United States

When I look back on our New York City journey to see Dr. David B. Samadi, a poem by Robert Frost entitled “The Road Not Taken” comes to mind. Robert Frost wrote as the resolution to his writing, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Little did we know that these words would come to represent our incredible journey in 2016 and epitomize our experiences that would change our lives forever.

On December 8th 2015 our journey began. Bill, my husband, underwent a prostate biopsy to determine whether cancer was present. Since his PSA tests revealed that his PSA levels had climbed and since there was a family history of prostate cancer, his local urologist determined this would be the best course of action. On December 30th 2015, we received the results. In three areas of the twelve that were biopsied, cancer cells had been discovered. Two options were given – “wait and see” or be treated with radiation for 39 consecutive days. My having lost two brothers to cancer (one at only 9 years of age when I was three and another at 57 when I was 54), the “wait and see” option was not even a consideration. We decided on radiation. The urologist smiled, shook our hands, and told me Bill would be fine.

That evening, I began to research the meaning of the Gleason grade, which is a rating that indicates the aggressiveness of the cancer. This number from 2 to 10 reveals how aggressive the potential cancer will be. Generally, cancer with scores above 7 are more aggressive. I also started researching radiation treatment, side effects, and skilled surgeons who did robotic surgery. I learned that if one has radiation, surgery is not possible should there be a recurrence of cancer. I researched the best robotic surgeons and Dr. David B. Samadi’s web site appeared. Discovering a box to send information, I supplied the Gleason scores and other pertinent facts from our local urologist. I pressed “send”, which started us on the path less traveled. It sent us on an incredible journey from a small town in southcentral Pennsylvania to a healing “Angel” miles away who had made helping people his life’s mission. Within minutes after sending the information, December 30 at 8:32 in the evening, Dr. Samadi emailed me with a three word message etched forever in our minds: I will help you. We immediately replied to the email thanking him for his message, never expecting that a celebrated doctor of his caliber would reach out to us. (We were dedicated viewers of Sunday House Call on Fox, which showcased Dr. Samadi and Dr. Seigel. When we traveled to NYC on Amtrack, his picture was – and still is – in the Amtrack magazine – one of the ten best doctors in NYC.) He in turn sent an email with the office phone number and name of the office contact.   Since the next day was the beginning of the New Year celebration, we decided to wait until January 4 to call his office. That wasn’t to be. On Saturday, January 2, in the morning, we received an unexpected call phone call from Dr. Samadi. I remember saying to him, “Dr. Samadi, why are you calling. Today is Saturday and a holiday weekend.” His only reply was “I’m working”. I told him this was not normal procedure for a doctor to call on a Saturday and a holiday weekend – for that matter, any day of the week. I was dumbfounded, but I have since learned firsthand that this man does not rest. He is determined to make a difference in people’s lives, and to that end he works tirelessly. Dr. Samadi reassured Bill with the words ” I am the only one who will be touching you”. He reassured me as well with the words, “Do not worry, this is going to be a good New Year”. I informed him that we had a planned trip to the Virgin Islands for the latter part of March. Should we cancel or can we wait to do surgery after the vacation? Dr. Samadi informed us that 8 weeks must pass between a biopsy and surgery; therefore, the surgery could be slated for early February and the vacation could go as planned. A grateful thank you from us and someone would be in touch from Dr. Samadi ended the conversation.

The journey down the path was beginning. A sweet lady by the name of Rosy Bautista from Dr. Samadi’s office contacted us to set up the surgery, explaining the paperwork she would be emailing and the necessary tests that would be needed for the surgery… I interrupted her informing this was all going too quickly – we needed time to make hotel reservations. Rosy informed me that no reservations would be needed, for we would be staying at the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge during our stay.

The day had arrived to take Amtrack to NYC. A dear friend of ours insisted on driving us the hour to Harrisburg to the train station. She would be there for us when we returned two weeks later.  Fortunately, Hope Lodge was not even a block from Penn Station in NYC. We checked in and went to our room. Surgery was scheduled for Wednesday, but first Bill had a pre-op appointment with Dr. Samadi.  When we arrived, we met sweet Rosy and gave her a small present to show our appreciation for all she had done to help us. I also had something for Dr. Samadi to show my appreciation for what he was doing for Bill. I had to find some way to thank him for his kindness. I had cross stitched the words DOCTOR with medical charms scattered among the letters. Two charms in the kit that had been sent to me were sadly identical. It dawned on me that I still had my silver charm bracelet from high school and college days, and on that charm bracelet was the Statue of Liberty, a charm reminiscent of my 1963 class trip to NYC. I knew then that that charm would be the finishing touch – Dr. Samadi had come here to America from Iran – the charm represented NYC, the charm represented freedom for Dr. Samadi, and it represented to us the freedom of cancer for Bill. Thus, that charm was attached to the cross stitch. I informed Dr. Samadi he could put the framed stitching in the basement of his home or wherever that I just felt the need to do something to repay his kindness.  His reply was to take us back to his office, placing the stitching on the window sill, and telling us we were family. I figured he would put it elsewhere after we had left, but during one of Dr. Samadi’s online live videos, I caught a glimpse of my stitching still on the window sill. I remember becoming emotional and thinking that I had never experienced a doctor who exuded such genuine sincerity. When we returned for the yearly checkup, it remained untouched on the window sill in clear view. He is not like any other doctor we have ever known. This man has a special aura that surrounds him. The office visit eased any worries we may have had. I remember asking Rosy – my husband is in good hands, right? Her answer I will always remember – he is the best. I later learned that Dr. Samadi had operated on her father three years ago.

There was one embarrassing moment at that pre-op appointment that broke the seriousness of the moment. We knew incontinence could possibly be an issue after surgery, so we bought an abundance of inexpensive underwear – Fruit of the Loom. Never thinking Dr. Samadi would do a digital exam, Bill wore his Fruit of the Loom instead of his Calvin Klein. We still laugh about the underwear, wondering what Dr. Samadi thought when he saw the Fruit of the Loom label. Funny thing is Bill didn’t have incontinence, so there is a drawer full of Fruit of the Loom.

The next morning, we headed to Lenox Hill Hospital for Bill’s surgery. When we arrived, we were escorted to Dr. Samadi’s floor. Yes, he has his own beautiful floor in the hospital, one that several nurses on another floor referred to as the “executive suites”. Indeed, the rooms are 5 star. In addition, Dr. Samadi had his own chef who prepared the meals. He had his own hostess who came to the room to take the meal orders. The menu resembled that of a 5 star restaurant. And when the meals were delivered, they arrived on a table, which was double table-clothed with cloth napkins, long stem glasses, silverware, and silver lids over the food to keep it warm. A large leather recliner and a sofa were in the room. When evening came, a staff member surprised me by making the sofa into a bed. I knew I would be staying overnight with my husband for two evenings, but I never imagined a bed, merely a recliner or cot. There are no words to describe his handpicked staff – totally dedicated to him, but more importantly to the patients and their families. The nurses were wonderful, attentive, personable and caring. Never have we experienced such an environment in this setting. Everything was at our fingertips. I was overwhelmed and at times very emotional.

After the surgery, Doctor Samadi came into the room and told me that all had gone well – he saw no cancer outside the prostate but all would go to pathology for final results. When Bill didn’t come back to the room when I was told he would return, a nurse took me down to the recovery room to allay my fears, but I found Bill in much pain being tended to by the recovery room nurses. It was best for me to return to the room so that those caring for him could help to get his pain under control. Eventually, he was brought to the room to begin his recovery. The nurses were constantly checking on his needs.

Our daughter Jamie and her husband Joe arrived from Atlanta at the hospital on Friday, the day of discharge. This too was a blessing, for they helped me get Bill back to Hope Lodge to settle in. Joe ran out into the middle of the street to flag down a cab that wasn’t even in the proper lane to turn onto our one – way street. But the cab driver did some maneuvering and made it across traffic to pick us up. Thank goodness for that cab driver, for whatever bumpy route he took to the Hope Lodge was the answer to relieving the gas and pain after the surgery. Our daughter and “son” were truly a blessing to us that weekend.

The following Wednesday was “get rid of the catheter day.” Bill felt so much better after the catheter removal that we walked from Dr. Samadi’s office back to Hope Lodge. Imagine – one week after surgery, walking from 485 Madison Avenue and 52nd Street down to 32nd Street, stopping along the way once for coffee and a doughnut. On Friday, we returned to Dr. Samadi’s for a final appointment and to learn the results of pathology. Cancer free!!!

Dr. Samadi gave Bill the instructions for future PSA tests (four tests the first year after surgery) as well as the do’s and don’t’s for the recovery period. Bill received his orders for the next few months, we said our good byes thanking both Dr. Samadi and Rosy for everything. One of the order was the dreaded kegels, which would help in preventing incontinence. One morning, I left to do an errand and remembered Bill hadn’t yet done the morning kegels. I constantly nagged him to do his kegels, keep his feet up, move his feet around, and get up and walk. When I called him to remind him, he laughed and couldn’t believe that is the only thing I wanted to tell him – do those kegels! Although I did nag him for months about various things such as the kegels and lifting, it must be remembered that his not following instructions would not only affect him but me. Our daughter sent him information as well regarding the exercises and what to do to avoid blood clots.

Even though we were undergoing trying times,there were light moments during this stay. We walked up and down the halls trying to get Bill to pass gas so that he would relieve the pain but also get to eat one of those delicious meals chosen from the five star menu. He was tired of soup, jello, apple juice, and water. But unfortunately, he missed experiencing a menu item since it took the somewhat bumpy cab to take care of that gas. As we would pass by a young man in the hall trying to do the same – pass gas – I remarked – who would have ever thought we could play a game to see who the winner will be for passing gas first. Bill lost while the young man had the opportunity to try a meal from that five-star menu. As we walked the halls the day after surgery, I was able to get Bill to laugh a bit as I sang – “I left my prostate in New York City” to the tune of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”.

Mid March we were on our way to Atlanta to to get ready for our trip with Jamie and Joe to the islands. We drove half way to Atlanta spending the night in NC and then continued to Atlanta the next day.  After a two-day rest, the four of us were headed to St. John’s for our annual stay at the Ginger Thomas villa. We made certain Bill had an aisle seat so that he could get up and walk as needed – again to avoid clotting as well as avoid disturbing people when he needed to get up. We so enjoyed our week there.  We knew we could email Dr. Samadi with questions and he would get back to us. Knowing Bill’s doctor was a click away made for a good feeling. We sat on the veranda watching the Carribean change color and going out to eat most every evening.

Bill has been blessed with no problems. The first post-operative PSA test was .02 while the next three were .00, which is the way it is supposed to be. He had his yearly check up with Dr. Samadi – all was good. It was great to see both Dr. Samadi and Rosy again. We will return in August for the next six month checkup and PSA test.

Blessing were abundant through this journey:

  • blessed to have been a viewer of Fox News Sunday House Call and see this man named David Samadi
  • blessed to not have taken the more travelled road and instead do research and know that radiation wasn’t the answer,
  • blessed to have Dr. Samadi respond that evening to me when I pressed the send button
  • blessed to have made the right decision to make this journey to NYC
  • blessed that Rosy Bautista was our contact person at Dr. Samadi’s
  • blessed that Jamie and Joe flew up from Atlanta for the weekend to help Bill back to the Lodge as well as help bring more love and warmth into this stay
  • blessed to have had the Hope Lodge, and
  • blessed to be surrounded by caring people everywhere we went.

Dr. Samadi gave us his cell phone number as well as his email address should we have any problems/ questions. Again, for a doctor to be so personable is rare in today’s world. He told us to go to his personal Facebook page and request friendship. We so enjoy both this page as well as the official Dr. David B. Samadi page. Dr. Samadi sometimes takes heat from people who are critical of his posting pictures of his fashionwear. People claim this is not how a doctor conducts himself. We say this shows he is the same as we are – people who post pictures of themselves, their families, their pets, their homes, a new dress or shoes. He is human even though a celebrated world reknown surgeon, but when I think of this man, a song by the grammy award winning country group Alabama comes to mind and makes me wonder.

“Oh, I believe there are angels among us, sent down to us from somewhere up above. They come to you and me in our darkest hours to show us how to live, to teach us how to give, to guide us with a light of love.”

Thank you, Dr. Samadi, our healing angel! You were the road less travelled for us and it has made all of the difference.

Bill McNew
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