Edited by Rick Kern
My journey into the world of gynecological oncology began with my diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer in March, 2012. Once the condition was confirmed by my primary care physician, I was referred to Dr. David Marchetti and have never regretted it. He is an exceptional doctor whose scholarship is exceeded only by his compassion. In the course of the two-and-a-half years that I have been his patient, I have developed the routine of seeing Dr. Marchetti and his staff every month for follow-up physicals or for the treatment of a cancer recurrence.
During our visits, I learn a lot about Dr. Marchetti, the man and the physician but also from Dr. Marchetti, since he is a walking wealth of information. However, I can't help but to want to know more because he has become such a vital part of my life.
•He is the doctor who not only knows how to treat my cancer, but as a well-rounded healer, also
knows how to treat my mind and my soul.
•He is the doctor who I have on speed dial and call the minute that something does not feel right
and he is always there.
•He is the doctor who has my life in his hands, where it feels safer than when it is in my own.
•He is the doctor who God brought into my life, and because of this, my faith in God has become
His medical staff, oncology nurses, Donna Pereira Brodzinski and Laurie Sullivan make up the medical team that I have come to depend on. Again, I learned a lot about them during our many conversations, but I wanted to get to know them better.
While Dr. David Marchetti has an impressive bio, it did not tell me everything that I wanted to know. Dr. David Marchetti is one of the original founders of Gynecologic Oncologic Oncology Associates. He is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and Gynecologic Oncology. He graduated from medical school at SUNY at Buffalo and completed his residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology along with a fellowship at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Dr. Marchetti, who is associated with CCS Oncology, is well known for his radical upper abdominal and extended pelvic resection surgical technique and his
successful post-operative care.
CCS Oncology provide Comprehensive Cancer Services with state-of-the-art technology and treatment options for all stages and types of cancer. Patients are given personalized attention and care by board certified physicians and staff at convenient locations throughout Western New York.
During one of my visits, I had the opportunity to ask my questions. I discovered that Dr. Marchetti
became a doctor because in his youth there were a lot of doctor shows on television and he thought it looked like something that he wanted to do. In his first year of residency, there was a gynecological oncologist, Dr. Haluk Caglar, who would lecture quite frequently. While Dr. Marchetti was an intern, he found Dr. Caglar inspiring and his lectures interesting. This is when Dr. Marchetti started thinking about oncology.
When I have an appointment with Dr. Marchetti, I am the type of patient who believes knowledge is power but not my knowledge – his knowledge. So I listen to what he tells me and follow his treatment plan to the exact letter. I ask questions but for the most part, I firmly believe that “he has it”.
I asked Dr. Marchetti if there are things that he would like to see more patients do or that would help make a visit or a treatment plan more productive. Dr. Marchetti said that the best patient to work with is the patient who has confidence in the face of it all. The patient can have confidence because of religion, their family structure or their trust of the medical process. The patient who is not intimidated by it all is going to do better. Dr. Marchetti states “I think they do better probably in some ways that we do not understand, if they are not intimidated by it. If they are not intimidated, they will not be depressed; if they are not depressed, they will have better nutrition; if they have better nutrition, they will have better immunity. And, if you look at all the different patients, the ones with religious strength, or family strength, and sometimes personal strength, strength coming from somewhere – if they are held up by it, they do better.”
I know that every medical specialty has its challenges and gynecological oncology is no exception. Dr. Marchetti's most challenging cases are surgical. Dr. Marchetti said that in the last five years there were were four people who normally would have had to have their bladder, their rectum, and their vagina removed to resect a dangerous tumor. However, through a combination of luck and advancements in the field, they were able to perform organ sparing operations and still get a curative surgery out of it. Traditionally they should have had those organs removed but specialization techniques have evolved dramatically and surgeons don't think of things in linear patterns that they were taught previously. “We were able to perform extraordinary procedures for a very specific population,” Marchetti explained, “I have seen that in the last five years in my career. I couldn't have done that in the first 25 years of my career.”
My family members always accompany me to my appointments for moral support so I asked Dr. Marchetti what advice he would give to family members in light of such intense circumstances. His answer was simple “Be that person who provides strength to your family member.”
Sometimes I see another patient in the waiting room bringing information about cancer to Dr. Marchetti. And while Dr. Marchetti looks into the new information, it is rare that something comes in that he has not heard about. Dr. Marchetti stays abreast of the latest developments, emerging protocols, and evolving cancer treatments through professional journals, national conferences, and other mediums of continued education.
Though there were a number of options open to me, I chose to follow a traditional treatment path which includes chemotherapy. However, not everyone follows tradition's well-worn path so I asked Dr. Marchetti how he responds to those who decline traditional treatment. He said, “We have people who take different paths and I support it though I do try to bring them back to the center. We support people who have strong opinions and want to avoid chemo, but we keep track of things in other ways such as scans, in order that things are not getting out of line. I would like for them to believe in the process and trust in something like we mentioned previously.”
We all hope for a cure for cancer so I was interested in learning Dr. Marchetti's opinion with respect to a realistic timeframe to turn the tide of this fierce battle. His answer was quite eye opening. He said “I think that there are certain models that work; for example, antibiotics have cured infections but have we cured all infections – the answer is no. I think we will have breakthrough in 20 or 30 years where we really change things.”
Dr. Marchetti has to deliver bad news along with good news. He believes that bedside manner is
everything and describes his bedside manner as getting involved with his patients, their disease, and their treatment.
When asked about his highest achievement, Dr. Marchetti responded, “I think when you graduate from fellowship, you are an expert and very good at what you do but it takes a long time to become better at what you do. I think, maybe, I am finally close to being that.”
New York State just passed a Medical Marijuana Law which Dr. Marchetti feels may have limited therapeutic potential. In his opinion, medical marijuana is fine for symptom management but he does not think it is a cure. However, he was quick to admit that he really does not know enough about it.
I believe that when someone crosses your path, they leave a mark on you. Dr. Marchetti feels that if he was diagnosed with cancer, his initial response would be to leave him intimidated. What he learned from his patents is that they are all very special because they accept the process and go through it maintaining poise, grace, and are not afraid. He also learned not to sweat the small stuff.
Dr. Marchetti was very open to being interviewed and I am honored that he shared his thoughts, his views, and his opinions with me.
Donna Pereira Brodzinski is someone I would call Dr. Marchetti's “Clinic Wife”. She has been with him over 24 years. It was a match made in heaven, my words, not hers. But I see the interaction they have together and, as a patient, I know that I could never be in better hands.
Laurie Sullivan has been with Dr. Marchetti more than 16 years. Laurie spends the most time with the patients as she is the oncology nurse who monitors the chemotherapy. Chemo can take up to six hours so her extensive contact with the patients can turn her into a patient advocate.
There is a third member of the medical team, Sarah Zmuda, a very caring certified medical assistant, who is currently on maternity leave at the time of this interview.
Donna was a mom when she decided that she needed to balance her time between children and work.
She was working at Sisters Hospital as a floor nurse when an opening became available in one of the hospital's clinics where Dr. Marchetti worked – the Specialty Center for Women's Health And Wellness.
Their first meeting was during a procedure, which was a first time for Donna but Dr. Marchetti
realized that she was a quick learner when she openly and honestly asked him to point to the instrument he just requested. The rest is history...
It is apparent that Dr. Marchetti recognized how important Donna was to his specialty when he asked her to join him in his private practice. She quit after three years due to children/work balance issues but Dr. Marchetti wanted her back under any terms and Donna could not say no to him. They went from seeing five patients daily in the clinic to 45 patients daily in his practice. Dr. Marchetti respects Donna's opinion when it comes to treatment and many times discusses options with her to get her feedback. Donna is the ying to his yang; his nurse Friday; his right hand person; his go-to. A patient can't help but feel that they are very fortunate to have this team on their side.
Donna noted that she learned a lot from Dr. Marchetti in terms of oncology, treatments and pharmacology, and that she learns something new every day. Laurie pointed out what is very obvious to his patients, that he views each of his patients as unique, and tailors their treatment with specific consideration to their physical, mental, and spiritual needs.
What Dr. Marchetti learned from Donna is more of a spiritual nature and the realization of how precious life is. Medicine is very scientific and logical. Donna helps Dr. Marchetti take a step back from science and realize that there is more to life than biology. He must be a quick study because he definitely invests in mind and soul as well as body.
Laurie explained that what Dr. Marchetti learned from her is that the patients view her as their advocate and messenger. She realizes that sometimes patients are afraid to report uncomfortable side effects which may result from their treatment regimens. They fear that by doing so, they may compromise or delay their scheduled treatments. Patients trust Laurie and look to her as support. In this regard, Laurie becomes a confidante to her patients. “I am made aware of both the positive and negative impact that cancer and its subsequent treatment is having on the lives of individuals and their families.” Laurie says. “I am often able to intervene and discuss problems that patients are afraid to mention to the physician, thus improving the patient's sense of well-being and empowerment.”
When asked what the patients teach the staff, Donna said that she has learned not to take anything for granted and never stress the day to day annoyances. She also said that she learned a positive attitude
makes a big difference!!! Laurie concurred and added, “Be a good listener, believe in the power of prayer, and never take anything for granted. Realize that every day is a gift.”
I would be remiss if I did not mention two other staff members, Marion Guarino and Leslie Berry.
They are the first faces you see when you enter Dr. Marchetti's practice and they set the tone of the office. They are always very friendly, even in the wake of a hectic day. The office sees 45 patients a day and Marion and Leslie know all the patients and their family members by name. They are very personable and always remember things that you tell them in passing. Marion and Leslie are the people who set up appointments; they coordinate treatments, schedule routine testing, and work with insurance companies. Their job is to keep the office running smoothly and to make sure that the medical staff has the recorded information that they need for each patient at the time of their appointment. They really are the backbone of the practice and the medical staff acknowledges their contribution as do the patients.
No one looks forward to a doctor's appointment but you can't help but have a positive attitude and feel empowered when you leave CCS Oncology because of Dr. Marchetti and his medical team.