Six-time cancer survivor and radiation oncologist offer patients hope as a volunteer


Six-time cancer survivor and radiation oncologist offer patients hope as a volunteer

When Aparna Surapaneni, MD, started working in the radiation oncology division of Memorial Hermann Health System six years ago, she saw a pull-up bar just outside her office.

"What's this doing here?" I asked. he recalled Surapaneni.

Dr. Arthur D. Hamberger, FACR, owned the bar, which he frequented frequently to stay in shape.

In an interview with Healio, Surapaneni claimed, I don't know if I would ever be able to do a pull-up. I may be able to accomplish this aim in the future, but not right now.

The 76-year-old Hamberger might be excused if he scaled back on his pull-up routine. He has received six cancer diagnoses throughout his 50-year career as a radiation oncologist, not just one.

Hamberger doesn't dwell on his lack of motivation, though. He has not decreased his standards for himself, both literally and symbolically.

Surapaneni stated, that he sincerely loves what he does, and that's why he's still very much committed. It's incredible what he can do for our patients now that he is a volunteer, says someone.

Hamberger continues to work out for an hour and a half every day and loves spending time with his loved ones. He seemed to have the kind of positivity that springs from an innate enthusiasm for life and for helping others rather than from self-help books.

Hamberger told Healio, "I've seen my kids grow up; I've seen my grandchildren grow up." Therefore, if something occurs to me, I've had a chance to make decisions. I've been given the chance to live my life.

A turning point

Cancer has been an unpleasant guest in Hamberger's life from the outset. His mother passed away from cancer in the middle of his first year of internal medicine residency training. A few months later, he read an article about a young man with metastatic testicular cancer in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The article's title was "In Search of a Cancer," according to Hamberger. I checked myself, and sure enough, there was the bump.

Hamberger, who was 25 years old at the time, was married and had a 5-month-old daughter. He underwent testicular cancer surgery, followed by postoperative radiotherapy for 4 weeks.

Along with saving his life, the therapy led to a change in his career from pulmonology to radiation oncology.

Hamberger and his family moved from New York to Texas after he received his internal medicine board certification so that he could start a three-year fellowship at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Hamberger spent eight years as the director of the radiotherapy training programme and a tenured professor of radiation oncology at MD Anderson. He was chosen to head up a new radiation division at Memorial City General Hospital, which is now known as Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center, while he was employed there.

Although it increased his empathy for cancer sufferers, Hamberger didn't talk about his personal cancer experience with his patients during his time as a radiation oncologist.

It was never brought up, he claimed. "Although I believe it made it easier for me to empathise with them, I never stated, "I know precisely what you're going through. I didn't want to be a character in the story.

New Challenges

Hamberger worked full-time until he was 69 years old because he had finally found a profession he loved. After that, he continued to work part-time at Memorial Hermann, filling in for various clinicians.

Hamberger was given two further cancer diagnoses during these years of semi-retirement. He had a robotic prostatectomy in 2017 to treat prostate cancer, and since all of the nodes that were removed tested negative, he didn't need any more therapy. All of the pelvic lymph nodes that were taken out during the prostate surgery, however, were determined to have small cell lymphocytic lymphoma.

Hamberger had total-body CT scans and visited a haematologist. These showed a few tiny nodes, but nothing to worry about, according to him.

He said, "I've just been CT-followed, and everything has kept totally silent.

But in 2018, just before Thanksgiving, Hamberger saw the tiniest hint of red in his pee.

I promise you, I wouldn't have noticed it if it hadn't been in the middle of the night, he continued.

It hasn't stopped me

Blood in Hamberger's urine was confirmed, and a CT urogram revealed a 4 cm bladder tumour on the side where he had previously undergone radiation treatment. In addition, the test discovered a pancreatic mass in Hamberger.

With a few transurethral resections, they were able to remove the bladder tumour, he said. "The pancreas mass biopsy I had revealed a common adenocarcinoma," the patient said.

Hamberger chose to concentrate on the pancreatic adenocarcinoma because the bladder tumour did not exhibit any evidence of invasion into the muscle. Following surgery, his doctor advised chemotherapy using a modified FOLFIRINOX regimen.

Knowing a little about chemotherapy, he declared, this treatment seemed like it would kill me. Consequently, I asked, how do you feel about going right to the operation?

In February 2019, Hamberger had robotic distal pancreatectomy and splenectomy, followed by 12 rounds of modified FOLFIRINOX, as recommended by his oncologists.

Although I do have some peripheral neuropathy, I am still able to feel the brake and accelerator of an automobile, he claimed. My handwriting or anything like that hasn't been altered.

Hamberger's ordeal has allowed him to reflect on and direct care for a particularly difficult case: his own. Surapaneni claimed that Hamberger's attention and intelligence have always been piqued by difficult instances.

"He is simply a terrific sounding board," she added. When I would have a challenging case, I would call him up and ask him how he would handle different instances. He has a wealth of professional expertise, and he often poses thought-provoking queries. He is incredibly beneficial to someone like me.

A fantastic sincere rapport

Hamberger has overcome challenges that seemed insurmountable, and he still leads a positive, compassionate life. He enjoys travelling, going to the theatre, and spending time with his children and grandkids. He has been married to Ella for 53 years.

Hamberger converses one-on-one with cancer patients while volunteering for the charity CanCare and at Memorial Hermann Hospital Greater Heights.

I attempt to support them as they work through their emotional problems and adverse effects, he said. I offer them suggestions and advise them to discuss their worries with their doctors. They feel less alone just by having someone around who wants to chat with them.

Hamberger was identified as having what is most likely the sixth malignancy in the right kidney in August 2021. It has been seen on CT scans for a while, and its size hasn't really changed.

We are just performing surveillance on kidney carcinoma because of its modest growth, according to Hamberger.

Surapaneni expressed her happiness at Hamberger's return to his weekly in-person volunteer visits, which had been put on hold due to the epidemic.

She remarked, that he just has such a fantastic, real interaction with everyone. He frequently engages in conversation with our clients while they wait for appointments. They will then be conflicted when it comes time for either their radiation treatment or their appointment with me since they genuinely want to remain and consult with Dr. Hamberger.

He exhorts patients to speak up for themselves, emphasising that he was lucky to be able to influence treatment choices when he had pancreatic cancer.

The fact that individuals have a choice, he claimed, is something that most people are unaware of. They don't usually consider asking, 'What are my options?'

Oncologists should take their patients' wishes into account and refrain from being overly idealistic or pessimistic, Hamberger advised.

The key, according to him, is to let the patient develop realistic anticipation of their chances. "At the same time, we must offer them enough optimism to see them through a treatment that may be crucial for them. And be prepared to discontinue if the course of the treatment proves to be worse than the condition being treated.

Surapaneni expressed her gratitude for her friendship with Hamberger, saying they had talked about everything from their shared position as native New Yorkers to challenging cancer situations.

She stated, that working a little bit beside him has really been a pleasure. "I'm just so thrilled for him every time he provides me with an update on how great he's doing. He is unlike anyone I've ever met. He's very special.

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