Thank You Letter

A recent patient treated at St. Louis CyberKnife wrote a thank you letter to the staff and physicians at our center to express their sincerest gratitude to everyone who assisted with their care.  Please take a moment to read the thoughtful and kind words our former patient had to say about his CyberKnife experience.

Admittedly, this letter to you is WAY overdue.  I am a recent CyberKnife patient at the St. Joseph and St. Clare hospital locationsI’m writing to express my sincerest gratitude to all those who assisted with my care. 

My prostate cancer was diagnosed after I had an MRI and additional biopsy regiment at a different St. Louis hospital, early last summer.  Although my PSA had risen, my Gleason score was low.  The urologist at the other facility suggested several different treatment opportunities, none of which included information regarding CyberKnife.  Thankfully, he reminded me that typically prostate cancer is a slow grower, making the point that I had time to conduct my own research before deciding on any treatment methods. 

Early on in my research, I spoke with each of my three brothers and told them that knowing what I knew then, I would likely opt to have my prostate removed.  I also have an elderly aunt who lives on Long Island, NY.  During my conversation with her I explained my diagnosis and known treatment options.  She was silent for a couple of seconds and then asked, “Have you heard about CyberKnife?” 

Cyber-what? I immediately conjured up images of green or red laser beams being slashed all around to cut out organs, or slicing people in half if they weren’t careful like a Star Wars lightsaber!  I may have even laughed a little.  “What is it again, I asked?” 

“CyberKnife,she replied.  “It’s all over the television here.  Men say they have treatments and then go play golf!”  

I couldn’t help it, I laughed out loud and said, “And you BELIEVE that? HA, HA, HA, what a JOKE!  Can’t be!” 

“Well, she said patiently, “I don’t know much about it, but from what I see on TV, I’d suggest that you at least investigateAfter all, what have you got to lose?” 

After hanging up the phone, I continued to chuckle at my aunt’s absurd, even outrageous comments about “CyberKnife.”  Then I thought, “What the heck?”  I Googled St. Louis CyberKnife and I clicked on the video.  During the next one minute my life changed forever.  I became emotional as I realized there was a potential treatment for me that was practically non-invasive, that my other physician had not bothered to mention. 

Within a few more minutes, I was speaking with Ruth Walker-Simelton from her office in the St. Clare Hospital in Fenton, MO.  Please note that a part of her description at the St. Louis CyberKnife website states that Ruth “does an amazing job of coordinating patient care and guiding them through a complex process with ease.”  This statement is absolutely true.  From my very first conversation with her, Ruth was professional, compassionate and knowledgeable. Because I live in Kirksville, MO, a three hour drive to St. Louis, Ruth was particularly helpful in making my appointments as convenient for me as possible.  She coordinated the transfer of all my necessary medical records and updated me regularly via telephone and email.

My first appointment was with Dr. John Bedwinek at the St. Joseph location.  I simply cannot say enough about how Dr. Bedwinek’s knowledge, confidence and reassuring bed-side manner completely eased my anxiety. He carefully explained all of the various treatment options that were available to me.  He further explained why, due to the specifics of my condition, what treatment options were not recommended.  At the end of our session, I thanked Dr. Bedwinek and told him I’d be back in touch with Ruth soon, believing then, as I do now, that I was in extremely capable hands. 

A few days later, I called Ruth and asked that she make the appointments for me to receive the CyberKnife treatments.  Once again, she made every effort to minimize my travel time while working within Dr. Bedwinek’s schedule. Ruth finalized the appointments for my fiducial implants at the St. Joseph Hospital, where I received excellent care.  The note I received in the mail from my attending nurse, Suzy Burke, was a much appreciated, thoughtful courtesy.  Ruth also completed the required appointments for imaging, and also for my five CyberKnife treatments. Although I realize there was substantial work and coordination involved on her part, Ruth made the entire process seem effortless. 

The rest of this letter describes my continued excellent care at the St. Clare location. However, I included it to you, thinking you might be interested to learn “the rest of the story.Otherwise, my sincerest gratitude to everyone in tile OR who assisted with my care. 

When I arrived at the St. Clare Hospital to begin my treatments, I met Jennifer Moore, RN, Susan Barnhart, RIT, and Ryan Menke, RIT.  I also briefly met John Chorzel, Medical Physicist. The SSM Healthcare System has every reason to be exceedingly proud of all these individuals. I was completely impressed with their efforts to help me understand what would occur during the procedures, while seeing to my comfort.  I want you to know how absolutely grateful I am to each and every one of them.  I simply can’t imagine receiving better professional care and compassion than what I received from these individuals in the CyberKnife suiteAnd, other than the expected bowel and bladder discomforts, I’ve suffered more from a common cold than I did from the CyberKnife treatments. I even went so far as to call my aunt to tell her that if I were a golfer, I’d go play a round! 

Please take a moment to reiterate my heartfelt gratitude to all of these fine employees. Each of them is an asset to your organization.  Thank you. 

Please allow me to suggest to you that the various treatments available through the St. Louis CyberKnife services are (sadly) in my view, St. Louis’s best kept secret. I have “sung the praises” of this remarkable technology to everyone I know, especially men. I even included the link to your website in my holiday greeting cards. The only person who acknowledged having even heard about CyberKnife is a distant relative who happens to be an oncologist. 

Also, I had a call from a former colleague asking me to speak with her uncle who had just been informed he has an elevated PSA. After learning about my experience, he mentioned that he has some affiliation with the SSM network, lives in Fenton, and has never heard about CyberKnifeI can only imagine that there are numerous men, like me, and women who have had extremely positive experiences with CyberKnife, where radiation therapy is indicated, who would be more than willing to share their stories publicly. 

The other facility did not tell me about the potential of CyberKnife treatments because they do not have the machine.  Had it not been for my aunt, or unless I happened on the information through research, I would have likely opted to have my prostate removed.  Patients have choices, but need information to determine if treatments or services are recommended or not. After that first minute of watching the St. Louis CyberKnife video, there is nothing that would have kept me from calling Ruth. I will continue to tell my CyberKnife story, and recommend it for as long as I live. 

The bottom line is that I want you to know how grateful I am to all the staff at the St. Joseph and St. Clare hospitals for the outstanding care, and hope, they provided me. 

I wish you a happy and HEALTHY 2018!

– Prostate cancer survivor and St. Louis CyberKnife patient, 65