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Putting lung cancer in the rearview

Vita beat cancer before. When it returned, she was ready to fight—with top experts in her corner.

Woman with dark hair wearing a navy and white polka dot shirt in a car dealership.
Vita put cancer behind her and is back at work in a car dealership in Brooklyn.

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.

Dark haired woman in navy and white polka dot top at a table.
Vita credits her surgeon Dr. Zeltsman with being straightforward and telling it like it is.

“It was a wonderful recovery, really, a very good recovery,” she said. “Much better than I could have ever imagined. I was in the hospital for five days, and Dr. Zeltsman visited me very often to let me know I was going to be OK. Again, he answered every question and took the time just to check on me. And, I have to say, the nurses and the other staff there were all very caring and observant to my needs. I didn’t want for anything. I can’t even express how wonderful they all are and how much they helped me.”

Today, Vita has resumed her life and her career. She is back working full time at the car dealership and is enjoying living cancer-free. She credits Dr. Zeltsman for telling it like it is—and making sure she understood her options from day one.

“I love this man, I’m telling you,” she said. “I couldn’t have had a better doctor or a better care team. Everything Dr. Zeltsman said was the way it was. I would highly recommend him to others because he’s a very caring doctor, yet remains very upfront and honest with you, no matter what is happening. I wouldn’t be here without him.”