For a long time, I was healthy, fit and active. It was during my long distance running and triathlon days, in 1988, that I was first diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and PSC, primary sclerosing cholangitis.
Luckily, I was given drugs that I responded to well and after about 3 years, I was feeling good enough to even wean myself from them.
During this time, a gastroenterologist in San Diego had discovered underlying disease that would essentially remain dormant for the better part of the next two decades. Unfortunately, however, the PSC was a precursor to bile duct cancer, or cholangiocarcinoma, which would become a persistent reality starting in 2007 not long after my wife and I moved back to New York.
A referral from a leading physician
Since the summer of 2007, I have been in and out of hospitals and living with the diagnoses, surgeries, treatments, and ups and downs that accompany so many cancer patients.
Having been exposed to some of the leading physicians in their fields, I met a liver transplant surgeon who referred me to Dr. Bruckner and the Bruckner Oncology group.
Following my surgery in the fall of 2007, Dr. Bruckner had me started right away on chemotherapy, more as a preventative strategy and by the spring of 2008, things looked really good and I was back at work. It was a little less than a year later, during regular monitoring, that tests showed metastases from the cholangiocarcinoma manifesting in my lungs.
Dr. Bruckner found a cocktail of chemotherapeutic agents to attack the cancer and I have been working with him and the Bruckner Oncology group ever since.
Working together to win the wrestling match
The best way to describe that first year is as sort of a wrestling match. This is what makes Bruckner Oncology such a unique place. We had to Ping-Pong around a bit with different combinations of drugs until just the right cocktail was identified. The tumor markers that are being watched have really decreased and I’m hoping that this continues even further.
Unlike so many other doctors where you have patients with “cancer x” all get “chemotherapy x” that supposedly matches that cancer, Bruckner Oncology is not a “plug and play” operation. Their approach and methodologies are such that two people with the same cancer may get two completely different treatment regimens – truly tailored to the individual.
A toolbox that includes experience and intuition
The ultimate goal, of course, is remission and removal of chemotherapy but Bruckner Oncology allows for a contingency plan if this doesn’t come to fruition: managing cancer, especially tough ones like cholangiocarcinoma, like HIV and other chronic diseases.
It is absolutely clear that Dr. Bruckner is a brilliant scientist, someone who relies on data and reports but there is a substantial part of his analysis of individual disease that is also very intuitive in a way that is difficult to classify or even replicate. This level of experience and intuition marries nicely with the rationale and prescriptive guidance of his partner, Dr. Hirschfeld, a true voice of reason. In addition, the entire staff at Bruckner Oncology builds an environment of safety, encouragement and open-mindedness.
I am a solutions-oriented person, whether it is something professionally related or as personal as fighting cancer. You need a toolbox of options to pull from. The Bruckner Oncology group is a vital tool in my arsenal.