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News  ›  Cancer Care

Much to be thankful for

December 14, 2022

At the age of 55, Phyllis Gendola was diagnosed with lung cancer. NCH thoracic surgeon David DeBoer, MD*, removed three-quarters of her lung on Dec. 18, 2015.

Just six months later, she suffered a seizure and was rushed to the nearest hospital for treatment. CT and MRI scans showed that her lung cancer had metastasized to her brain, requiring additional treatment; in her case stereotactic radiosurgery using CyberKnife technology under the care of NCH radiation oncologist Stephen Nigh, MD*.

Dr. Nigh was able to control the two tumors without having to operate or use anesthesia by utilizing this non-invasive treatment for cancerous and noncancerous tumors and other conditions where radiation therapy is needed.

NCH was the first hospital in Chicagoland to offer CyberKnife technology in 2006. Through the use of leading-edge robotics and image guidance in real-time, this treatment modality is both highly accurate and patient-friendly. Precise beams are used to deliver a focused amount of radiation to eradicate tumors in the brain and elsewhere. The hospital recently completed upgrades to this system so treatment times for the patient are often less than 30 minutes. Through a team approach, patients are treated in a true multidisciplinary manner utilizing the expertise of several physicians, nurses, physicists and support staff.

After this less than one hour outpatient treatment, Phyllis was able to go home and rest — she slept for 14 hours straight!

Follow-up care consisted of new scans every three months, and six months later two more lesions were found that Dr. Nigh also successfully treated utilizing the CyberKnife system. This was six years ago and Phyllis remains cancer-free to this day.

“I still get nervous before the scans, but know I am in good hands with my care team,” Phyllis said. “From Dr. Nigh to my MRI tech and radiologist — I think of all of them as family.”

The 62-year old lives in Hoffman Estates and loves gardening, feeding wildlife and enjoying the outdoors. She continues to follow-up with annual scans and is thankful she has been able to take care of herself with the love and support received from family and friends.

Phyllis also laminated and carries with her a Bible verse that Dr. Nigh gave her that reads:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:6-7

“I have been blessed in so many ways,” Phyllis said. “I celebrate my blessings and my Catholic faith with masses being said on the 18th and 28th of each month — coinciding with my lung and brain cancer surgery dates — as a reminder that with faith and great care, miracles do happen.”

*Drs. DeBoer and Nigh are independent physicians in the community with privileges at NCH. They are not employees or agents of NCH. No two cases are the same; results may vary.