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Married Couple Shares Cancer Care Experience

Married couple opens up about their medical care experience.
Married couple opens up about their medical care experience.
Ed and Leslie Susralski

Whether you're a cancer patient or a caregiver, it's normal to want the best medical care possible from a quality provider. You come in expecting your questions to be answered, to be given timely information to read, and to be fully taken care of. However, not every patient has been given this type of quality care.

In fact a new, national survey finds that open communication is something cancer patients and caregivers desire, but may not always get. The Cancer Experience: A National Study of Patients and Caregivers found that while patients and caregivers are looking for providers to give them effective treatment and detailed information of their progress, they often do not experience this as part of their treatment.

Ed and Leslie Susralski, know firsthand about the stressors and struggles associated with a negative cancer care experience. Seven years ago, Mr. Susralski was diagnosed with an aggressive, malignant form of prostate cancer. They talked to Brandi Walker about their difficult cancer care experience with their first hospital, their decision to switch providers, and the positive role that Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) has played in their lives since making the move.

1. Tell me about your experience with the previous hospital that you went for your prostate cancer diagnosis.
The previous hospital that we attended was supposed to be one of the top cancer hospitals in the country – that’s why we were referred there after finding out that my cancer had metastasized. However, we ran into several issues: appointment times were moved unexpectedly with little advanced notice, leading to high anxiety; doctors treating me seemed unattached and were not receptive to my questions about treatment; and the general attitude seemed to reflect that they were the doctors and I as the patient should not question them. They also were not interested in an integrative treatment model; there was little to no focus on nutrition, mind-body or interactive conversation. And when we asked questions about these things, they were not answered to our satisfaction or with respect. Based on this experience, my wife, Leslie, and I decided to switch hospitals.

2. How much did you feel involved in treatment decisions as a couple at your new hospital compared to the old one?
Our former hospital did not allow us to offer any ideas as far as treatment goes. Leslie was always researching and looking for anything that may help my situation, but her recommendations were rebuffed on numerous occasions. At CTCA, we are very much a part of my treatment plan. Leslie and I can freely voice our opinions on treatment options and my doctors are always right on the mark with new medications and treatments. We were immediately comfortable with CTCA because they were so open to what we had come to believe through our own research. Cancer is not just about treating the disease, it is about our ability to take responsibility for ourselves through nutrition, vitamin supplements, exercise, and mind/body awareness.

3. Were there any positive experiences during your time at the previous hospital?
I can honestly say that I have no positive comments about experiences at my previous hospital. Leslie and I simply believed in a different approach to treatment and care than they did.

4. How positive of an impact has CTCA been in your lives?
The impact of CTCA, in both of our lives, has been significant. Anxiety levels are minimal due to the fact that many of our test results are available the same day, appointment times are punctual and my care team is thorough. I now have a team of experts – doctors, nurses, naturopaths and dieticians – who are all involved in ensuring that I’m receiving the best possible care. CTCA restored our faith and confidence in our doctors, which is the biggest and most important part of cancer care. We are very thankful that they are in our lives!

We are also thankful for our experience at The Cancer Support Group of Mokena, Illinois. They have a large library of books and CDs, which were available to Leslie and I at no cost. We are extremely grateful for all of the resources provided to us as we continue to research, learn about and navigate my disease and treatment plan.