Article originally published Summer 2019 The Monitor magazine.
“I keep busy – I like taking care of others,” said Carla, who lives in Lancaster. “I help out my aunt who has Alzheimer’s; I help my mom do bookwork for MRDD. I make crafts for the flea market.”
For Carla, 56, being able to stay close to home and receive advanced, personalized treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma and stage 4 lung cancer, both of which she has battled previously, has made a world of difference in her ability to continue to care for those who depend on her. Since 1998, she has received the majority of her cancer care at Fairfield Medical Center and, over the past two decades, has built a strong relationship with the oncologist who has been there for her from the very beginning – Kanwaljit Singh, M.D. of Fairfield Healthcare Professionals Hematology-Oncology.
“Dr. Singh is compassionate and kind; any time I’ve had questions, he’s answered them. If I have any concerns, I know I can call his office and get an answer back right away,” she said. “He has been by my side through it all.”
Carla first came to FMC in 1998, when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, which is cancer of the lymphatic, or immune, system.
She disliked the idea of having to travel back and forth to Columbus for her care and was thrilled when she found out she wouldn’t have to. At the time, FMC was offering a clinical trial where Carla could receive chemotherapy on top of the standard treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma, all while being constantly monitored by FMC staff. Carla jumped at the opportunity to participate.
“Doing the trial gave me a lot of peace of mind,” she said.
Carla’s other comfort was Dr. Singh, who was relatively new to FMC at the time. Board-certified in medical oncology and hematology, Dr. Singh was one of the first physicians Carla met and has consistently guided her through every obstacle she has encountered in her cancer journey. Since 1998, Carla has undergone several cancer surgeries and chemotherapy treatments at FMC while battling reoccurring Hodgkin lymphoma and lung cancer.
“Cancer can become a chronic disease for some people, like Carla – she gets cancer, it gets better, and then it comes back,” Dr. Singh said. “She has consistently put her faith in us each and every time. She never asks for a second opinion. She knows if I have any doubts, I will tell her. She has trusted us from the very beginning.”
Carla said while she initially chose to come to FMC because of the cancer trial and the close proximity of the campus to her home, it’s the people, like Dr. Singh, who have truly made the difference over the years.
“All of the people who have cared for me at FMC have been consistently wonderful – I’ve never met anyone who was not nice,” Carla said.
She’s also had the opportunity to watch the evolution of FMC’s Cancer Care program and has personally benefitted from FMC’s advancements in technology and treatment. Currently, she is receiving a new and innovative cancer drug that contains both an antibody and a toxin. Referring to it as a type of “Smart Bomb,” Dr. Singh said the antibody seeks out and binds to cancerous cells so that the toxin can destroy them.
“There is no doubt that Carla’s case has been challenging with the reoccurrence of her cancers and now with both of her cancers coming at the same time,” Dr. Singh said. “But it has also been rewarding to see that the advanced treatments that we are doing this time are working for her.”
Dr. Singh said his goal has always been to give patients at FMC comprehensive, dedicated cancer treatment. For patients like Carla, that has meant everything.
“Over the years, particularly the past 10, FMC’s cancer program has grown dramatically and more and more patients are staying here, not just because it is convenient, but because they have developed a trust in our program,” Dr. Singh said.