A True Warrior Keeps Fighting

Richard Palmeri

Vietnam veteran and family man Richard Palmeri, 63, was diagnosed with kidney cancer and pancreatic cancer last autumn. Given months to live, he found support and treatment to keep his story going. 

Mr. Palmeri, who worked in automobile sales and management for 37 years, has a full house and a full slate of family responsibilities. He shares his home in Queens with his wife, Ursula, six of his 10 grandchildren, and his 95-year-old mother, Helen. 

“My mother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and I have one grandchild on the autism spectrum,” Mr. Palmeri said. “On any given day, it’s busy around here, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.” 

Having served three tours of duty in Vietnam as a sailor on the USS Ranger aircraft carrier, Mr. Palmeri is no stranger to tough situations. After gallbladder removal surgery in 2013, he experienced recurrent abdominal pain. In October 2015, doubled over in pain, Mr. Palmeri visited the Emergency Department at a Veterans Administration (VA) hospital.

“On a scale from 1 to 10, my pain was at 50,” Mr. Palmeri said. “I was told it was gas pain, but a CT [computed tomography] scan revealed I had kidney cancer.”

Following the diagnosis and a delay in removing the kidney, an MRI at another hospital showed a 5mm growth on his pancreas.

“I was told I had six months to live,” Mr. Palmeri said.

With help from the VA, Mr. Palmeri wound up under the care of oncologist Tony Philip, MD, at LIJ Medical Center. Dr. Philip connected Mr. Palmeri with Diana Martins-Welch, MD, palliative care physician with North Shore University Hospital and the Supportive Oncology and Pain Management Center

The center offers a full spectrum of services to make life as stress-free, positive and comfortable as possible. Oncologists collaborate with a robust group of experts in many disciplines. The team helps patients navigate anxiety, depression and general discomfort as they juggle administrative details, such as filing for disability insurance. 

To address Mr. Palmeri's debilitating pain and help him remain home with his family, Dr. Martins-Welch established a regimen of holistic therapies. 

“We can always do things to make the most of the time we have left,” said Dr. Martins-Welch. “Palliative care gives patients hope. It enhances quality of life, which may help improve outcomes because emotional states can significantly affect physical health.”

Mr. Palmeri credits Dr. Martins-Welch’s care with relieving his pain and improving his quality of life. He receives most of his chemotherapy at home, surrounded by loved ones. 

“Dr. Martins-Welch has done everything in her power to help,” Mr. Palmeri said. “She is fabulous and has even made house calls when needed. Everyone has offered exemplary care, helpful financial guidance and incredible emotional support. I have faith in God. Ursula and my 10 grandchildren are my angels. And I trust my doctors 100 percent.” 

Find compassionate assistance by calling the Supportive Oncology and Pain Management Center at 855-858-8036.

Find more news about health, wellness, medical discoveries and community programs from LIJ Medical Center and North Shore University Hospital in Look North.


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