Five years cancer free: Bill Kalmar’s story

Guest Blogger

| 7 min read

None of us, I suspect, are fond of visiting our physician, making an unexpected trip to the hospital emergency room, or undergoing an operation. From time to time, we hear about the unanticipated results of a botched operation where the wrong leg was removed or an incorrect diagnosis resulted in complications. On the other hand, the medical profession, day in and day out, performs intricate, complicated life-saving operations that go unnoticed to those outside of family members.
Our family has a cadre of physicians that, in my estimation, are tops in their field and are available at almost a moment’s notice. I mention this because a recent health care survey indicated that the average waiting time to see a general practitioner is 20 days in some of the country’s largest cities. The study suggests that long waits reflect symptoms of the country’s ailing health care system. Perhaps my own experience is an anomaly, but I want to recognize the doctors and staff of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and the quality and care they demonstrate on a regular basis. Yes, I realize that some will find this patronizing to the health care industry, but as a customer/patient of that industry the following observations are cathartic for me and hopefully many of you will be able to relate to my very positive experience.
June 2, 2013 marked the fifth year anniversary of my robotic surgery for prostate cancer, which was conducted at Henry Ford Hospital by the remarkable surgeon Dr. James Peabody and his talented team augmented by the caring, seemingly always on-duty nurse Andrea Simone.
Each year as I approach that date, I have Dr. Peabody to thank for keeping my internal clock running and operating smoothly. A month after the surgery, I was again running my usual five miles a day and competing in races. Even after the surgery, I was competing in duathlons, which consist of a three-mile run, then an 18-mile bike ride, followed by a five mile run. Now that I’m 70, I will compete in the “70 to 74” age group, which means I will be the youngster—so medal presentations here I come. Last November, Dr. Peabody and I competed in a 6.2 mile race in Roseville, Michigan—the Roseville Big Bird Run. He is years younger, so he finished ahead of me. Truth be known, I allowed that to happen because who wants to be treated by a physician who has just been embarrassed in a sporting event by his patient?
As with any anniversary one likes to reminisce about the happenings of the recent years so allow me to do so here:
* The partnership with the former Detroit Ritz-Carlton Hotel certainly marked for a carefree experience. People arrive from all over the world for the robotic surgery at The Henry Ford Hospital and choose to stay at The Ritz-Carlton because of the care and concern of the staff who are versed in the hospital process. The pre-operation meals, the limo rides to and from the hospital, the caring and knowledgeable hotel staff and the post operation meals are indicative of how a first-class operation is run. It’s no wonder that the Ritz-Carlton hosts hundreds of people from all over the world. During our stay we met people from China, England, Japan, and of course various cities in the United States. All marveled at the atmosphere of The Ritz-Carlton. In the case of surgery patients, it’s a hotel and yet it’s similar to a pre-op room at a hospital. The hotel has since transformed itself to The Henry which is part of the Marriott Autograph Collection but I know that same care for people remains intact.
* When told that there would be very little pain after the surgery, I figured this was just a way to settle my nerves, but frankly when I awoke there was no pain. In fact, my son and I stayed up very late that same day watching the Detroit Red Wings play triple overtime in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The only indication that I had surgery was a multitude of tubes protruding from my body.
* Another reason the whole experience was so successful can be attributed to my nurse, Andrea Simone. Simone was seemingly always on call with her cell phone. Anytime I called that number, night or day, because of a problem or just to ask a question, she answered and always offered encouragement and wise advice. She is a delight to work with and it’s no wonder to me that she was recently one of 10 hospital employees to be recognized for the Clara Award, of which there were close to 500 applicants. She is truly remarkable and a credit to her profession and to Henry Ford Hospital.
* Since my surgery, all systems are “go,” which means I have returned to my normal routine. If you’re wondering how my marital responsibilities are progressing, feel free to ask my spouse of 49 years. I think she will tell you, as they say in the space program, that launch and landing is very successful.
* And speaking of my spouse, Mary, it’s important that prostate cancer patients have a strong support group at home. In my estimation, I was able to recover quickly because of the care and watchful eye of Mary. Having a catheter for a week is quite an experience, but it was made easy and sometimes humorous with Mary at the helm. At the end of the first week, we had to measure urine output, unfortunately we were in the middle of a two-day power outrage and thus our urine measuring and apparatus cleaning had to be done with a flashlight. There’s something surreal when one has to expel urine into a measuring glass while your spouse directs this activity holding a flashlight on your manliness.
* Over the last year, I have discussed prostate surgery with people at our gym and have read many articles on the subject. After all that, I’m still convinced that for me this was the optimum course of action. There are some who will tell you that another method such as seeds or radiation are preferred but given all the choices I would still opt for the robotic surgery. It’s painless and there are no lasting effects. I am now cancer free and my PSA tests have come back as 0.0 for the last five years. I look forward to a long and fruitful life and beating Dr. Peabody in a race in 2009. Thanks to him and his team my surgery will be long remembered as a total success. As an aside, a recent issue of HOUR magazine published a section entitled, “Top Docs” and Dr. Peabody was named in the category of urologists. In fact, out of the twenty-three doctors in that category he garnered the most votes! Guess I made the right decision in having him for my doctor!
So when it comes to comfort and professional health care, The Henry Ford Hospital rises to the top. This was substantiated two years ago when the hospital won our nation’s highest award for quality and customer service – The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. When an organization focuses on patient outcomes, we are the winners. I am indebted to everyone at Henry Ford Hospital for my quality of life. Now it’s time to train for my next run against Dr. Peabody. I want him to take a good look at my face before the event because once the gun sounds hopefully he will be looking at my backside for the duration.
Bill Kalmar
Lake Orion MI
William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003 making it one of the foremost state quality award programs in the nation. He has been a member of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Board of Overseers and a Baldrige examiner. He’s also been named quality professional of the year by the ASQ’s Detroit chapter. Now semiretired, he’s a freelance writer for the Detroit News, the Oakland Press, Crain’s Detroit Business and several other national publications including Senior Journal and Quality Digest. He writes a weekly column for The Grosse Pointe News and a Midwest entertainment newspaper entitled Frank Talk. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, is a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer. Kalmar also does radio voice-overs, is an accomplished runner and marathoner and competes in duathlons.

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