After her lung cancer went into remission, Vita Koubek, 73, thought she was in the clear. To hear her tell it, she had followed her doctors’ recommendations to the letter during each previous bout with cancer (she has been treated for thyroid and uterine cancer, as well as lung)—and she had hoped that the treatments would leave her cancer-free. This time, the news was tough to take: Her lung cancer was back and had unexpectedly spread to her brain.
“I had to have surgery to remove that cancer,” the Bellerose, NY, resident said. “And after, my brain surgeon referred me to David Zeltsman, MD, a thoracic surgeon at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. My surgeon said he was highly recommended. But I had no idea when I met him for the first time just how wonderful of a doctor he would be.”
Vita, who still worked full time as a warranty administrator for a car dealership, said the diagnosis made her quite nervous. Working with a new doctor made her feel even more so. But Dr. Zeltsman, she said, put her immediately at ease.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect, to be honest,” Vita explained. “But Dr. Zeltsman was very upfront. He doesn’t give you any nonsense. He tells you exactly like it is. When I came to see him, he said, ‘I’ll give you the good news, and I’ll give you the bad news.’ And he made sure I understood exactly what he was recommending and why. He answered every question and made sure I was OK with what was going to happen next.”
As it turns out, it was a good thing she met with Dr. Zeltsman, because Vita had a tumor in her lung. To help treat that cancer, Dr. Zeltsman recommended a heavy dose of chemotherapy, and two separate operations. The first operation was to remove some of her lymph nodes to check to see if the cancer had spread to the body’s lymphatic system. “I was able to have the first procedure done as an outpatient. It was very easy,” Vita said. “Dr. Zeltsman was very upfront with me from the beginning. He said that they would take out the lymph nodes and that if they found anything, they might not be able to do the lung surgery. Luckily, it turned out that there was nothing in the lymph nodes, so he was able to do the second procedure the very next day.”
Recovering from the minimally invasive surgery to remove the tumor in her lung (the one that had led to the brain metastases) ended up being—in Vita’s estimation—surprisingly quick and painless.