Just a few of the thousands of stories from people TBRO has helped defeat cancer

In the last few decades, TBRO has helped thousands of people defeat cancer through leading-edge treatments. But beyond that, our hallmark is caring – caring deeply about your treatment plan, your treatment success, and you as a person.

Each of our physicians joins our practice because they care deeply about taking the time to understand each individual patient’s unique story to develop a successful treatment plan. Don’t believe us? Just read below for a few stories from our patients.

Debbie Modlin’s Breast Cancer Treatment

In late October of 2018, Debbie Modlin was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer—one of the most aggressive and difficult to treat forms of breast cancer. She was understandably terrified at the time of diagnosis, and unsure of what to expect when she first met with Dr. Steel to discuss a plan for her treatment. “Dr. Steel and the staff immediately made me feel important and part of the family. They took my fear away,” Debbie says of that first meeting.

Debbie completed 16 weeks of chemo and finished her radiation treatments just before Thanksgiving. In the meantime, she’d started journaling to calm her mind and capture the maelstrom of feelings she experienced during treatment. “I read that journal now and see how far I came during that time—and how much further still I’ve come today.”

Debbie’s faith and her journaling helped her join in on the fun still to be found in life—including dressing up right along with TBRO’s staff in Halloween costumes! “I was a biker chick,” she laughs. Now cancer-free, Debbie credits her excellent TBRO team for their care of her physical self and journaling and other self-regulation techniques for preserving her mental and emotional health.

Jim D’Ambrosio’s MALT Gastric Lymphoma Story

Jim D’Ambrosio was diagnosed with stage 1e MALT gastric lymphoma on February 22, 2020.

“I went in for an endoscopy with my gastroenterologist, and he found and diagnosed my cancer,” he says. “Stage 1e means we caught it early and it was only in one place, and I learned that meant I had a very good prognosis.”

D’Ambrosio was encouraged to get a second opinion, which he did, and was referred to a few oncologists to check out, which he also did.

“The Wesley Chapel TBRO location was so convenient to my house,” he says. And meeting Dr. Jack Steel clinched the decision: “He’s got an action hero name,” D’Ambrosio laughs.

But it was actually the care and concern—as well as the convenience—D’Ambrosio felt from this team of healthcare heroes that led to his decision to be treated at TBRO.

“I went to TBRO for CyberKnife treatment every day for four weeks,” he recalls. “I was never there longer than 15 minutes—from checking in to walking out. My treatments were about 3 minutes of that.”

His TBRO care team was “absolutely great,” he says. “Trey, Sara, Dr. Steel and his nurse Cynthia treated me very well. They were on time every time, and very accommodating if I needed to make a change.”

The Wesley Chapel TBRO location was always squeaky clean, D’Ambrosio recalls. But it became even more so once TBRO starting enacted more stringent safety precautions to protect staff and patient health during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The pandemic hit right in the middle of my treatments,” he recalls, “and I was afraid we might have to delay my treatments. I didn’t like that idea.”

TBRO changed processes and procedures to make sure the vast majority of their patients could continue their treatments, including restricting access to the waiting room to patients only, asking companions to wait in their cars; creating 6 feet of separation in the waiting room; staggering appointments to keep the waiting room occupancy to no more than one patient; taking patient’s temperatures and asking a series of evaluative questions to gauge their health at check-in; having patients wear masks and sanitize their hands before and after treatments; and of course the care teams were properly attired in masks and gloves at all times and performing extra sanitization between patients.

“I liked what they did in response to the pandemic,” he says. “No one wants to get sick, and I really appreciated their precautions.” They may have gone from speaking face-to-face to mask-to-mask, but Dr. Steel, Cynthia, Trey and Sara were as positive, caring and professional as ever, he says. “I almost looked forward to going every day,” he says, “because they were so nice.”

D’Ambrosio is now taking advantage of TBRO’s telehealth option for his follow-up appointments; in fact, most of his medical visits these days are virtual, rather than in-person, “and, while I kind of miss seeing everyone–I really like those people—this is even more convenient,” he says happily.

D’Ambrosio encourages other newly diagnosed cancer patients not to delay taking the next step toward treatment, even with the uncertainty and lingering restrictions caused by the pandemic. “Find the right team and get started on treatment right away,” he says. “Take whatever precautions make sense for your diagnosis and overall health if you have to go out.” You can be assured that, in their dedicated cancer treatment centers, TBRO certainly will!

Tony Lubrano’s Lung Cancer Story

A cancer diagnosis can change a person’s identity: In 2010, Tony Lubrano was in his mid-fifties and fit. When he saw an orthopedic doctor in June for intense shoulder pain, Tony was sent for an MRI. His doctor called on Sunday with the results: Tony had a mass on his lung. Subsequent tests confirmed it: Tony was now a lung cancer patient.

Tony’s sister-in-law is a longtime employee of Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology (TBRO), and Tony had heard her praise the doctors, nurses and radiation therapists many times over the years. So he felt TBRO was a natural choice—even though he lives in Orlando. “I was very confident in everything I’d heard about TBRO,” he said. And so Tony moved into his sister-in-law’s home while he had surgery to remove the tumor and then chemotherapy and radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.

“TBRO is a genuinely caring place,” Tony said of his experience. “I could always count on the nurses and radiation therapists. There was never a single day that I waited more than two or three minutes before my treatments; they were always on time. You quickly get a feeling for a doctor’s office based on how they treat you on arrival.”

He counsels any newly diagnosed cancer patient to consider TBRO because “they’ll fight for you.”

These days Tony’s identity is a cancer survivor; he’s been looking forward to this summer when he’ll be celebrating 10 years cancer-free.

In recent months he’s experienced some migraines. Lung cancer patients have a higher prevalence of developing brain cancer, and so Dr. Steel scheduled an MRI for Tony. The results showed a sinus infection. So Tony’s summer of celebration is still on!

Toni Churchill’s Vocal Cord Cancer Story

In 2015, Antoinette “Toni” Churchill was diagnosed with vocal cord cancer and referred to Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology, where she worked with Dr. Steel on a treatment plan that included radiation five days a week for seven weeks. “I love that team,” she says. “Dr. Steel, Trey [Office] and Doug [Conner-Reeves]…they’re so wonderful. Dr Steel and I just clicked. My husband even likes him—and he doesn’t like many doctors!” she laughs.

This wasn’t her first fight with cancer; Toni had cervical cancer in the 80s. And sadly it wasn’t her last; during a regularly scheduled follow up last year, Toni’s team discovered she had stage 2 breast cancer. “I think I made Dr. Steel cry by coming back,” she says. “He told me, “I don’t want to see you this way….’” But Toni and her care team got right back to work fighting the cancer. She finished up 21 rounds of radiation in April 2019.

“I believe in Dr. Steel and my TBRO team wholeheartedly,” Toni says. “I wouldn’t have gone back to them otherwise. But they have the most up-to-date information, and they truly take care of you from day one. Trey and Doug call me every now and then, just to see how I’m doing. If I have any questions or any issues, the answer is always, ‘come on in; we’ll take care of you.’”

Toni is also a source of inspiration and support for those around her: She’s helping her 80-year-old mother, who lives in New York, navigate her treatment for B cell lymphoma, and she has encouraged other patients who were considering giving up on their radiation treatments to stick with it, not to give up. “It’s not fun,” she says of treatment, “but it has to be done!”

Kim Washington’s Breast Cancer Story

“You just gotta face it,” breast cancer survivor and TBRO patient Kim Washington says. “When you get that diagnosis, you just gotta face it.”

If you’ve joined the ranks of cancer patients, Kim wants to tell you not to be afraid. “Go to the doctor, follow their directions and have faith in God,” she says.

Now in remission, Kim counsels that having a positive attitude and faith is how you’ll get through this. “And you have to ask questions,” she says. “If you’re feeling something funny, ask. Your TBRO team is there to answer your questions, and they’ll make sure you understand what’s going on.” If you don’t participate in your own care, she says, you’ll be sad and depressed. “Don’t just lay there; you have to understand what’s going on with your body.”

Oh, sure, the first visit starts out uncomfortable at the least—if not terrifying. “I was thinking, ‘I gotta take my clothes off in front of these people I don’t even know!’” But with good, caring people like Radiation therapist Trey and Receptionist Nadine and Dr. Kahn, Kim felt comfortable and safe before the end of that first visit. “Trey just chatted with me at first, and we found out my daughter went to the same school he did. In the end, we had a lot in common.”

Nadine was another bright spot in each of the 12 days Kim came in for treatment, “especially the week of Halloween,” Kim laughs! “Nadine dressed up in a different costume every day, and I looked forward to seeing what she wore each day.” The staff displays a sense of humor and sincere kindness that make visits positive experiences.

“Dr. Kahn made time for every question and was very concerned about my well-bring; he always asked me how I felt—how were the side effects, how did I feel about this decision….” He even helped Kim prep for other doctor’s visits, making sure she could share relevant information to optimize her treatments and visits.

As she came to the end of her treatments, Kim says she realized she would miss seeing the TBRO team every day. “Not the treatments, you understand,” she laughs, “but the people.” They’ve become dear to her, a vital part of her cancer journey. “They made me feel good about myself.”

Candice Dixon’s Breast Cancer Story

“From the time I learned I had cancer, I promised myself that I would stay positive as best as I could and take one day at a time.” That’s what Candice Dixon, or Candy, told herself when she found out that she had the devastating diagnoses of breast cancer. Candy had a mammogram in January of 2020 that revealed a shadow her doctor wanted to investigate. Upon further review, a biopsy confirmed that Candy had cancer.

Breast cancer cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. Breast cancer is sometimes found after symptoms appear, but many women with breast cancer have no symptoms, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). This is why regular breast cancer screening, such as mammograms, is so crucial.

Additionally, the ACS estimates that there will be more than 279 thousand new breast cancer cases in 2020. This means Candy was not alone in her diagnosis, and she wouldn’t be alone in her treatment. Candy had surgery to remove the cancer in Lakeland but didn’t want to travel for what would be an hour back and forth for her prescribed radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is one of the most common treatments for cancer and may be used along with other treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, hormones or targeted therapy, according to the ACS. Radiation therapy often is prescribed when the patient will need to have multiple treatments each week for a period of time.

Since Candy would need to receive radiation frequently, she asked her doctor if she had any treatment options in her hometown of Sun City Center. “And she recommended Dr. Steel and TBRO to me,” Candy said.

Candy’s neighbor had also been treated for cancer by Dr. Steel and recommended him highly so Candy felt comfort knowing there was familiarity with him.

“And when I called my dermatologist and family friend for his opinion, he also referred me to TBRO and Dr. Steel, so I knew I was going to be in great hands. Then, as soon as I walked in the front door, it all fell into place. It’s important to feel that confidence in the practice, the people, the staff, even the facility itself.”

When Candy first met with Dr. Steel she found him to be “very pleasant, upbeat and very positive about how we would treat this.” The entire team she worked with at TBRO was kind and passionate about her care: “I always walked into each of my appointments with a smile because I knew they were there to help me on my journey. Everyone there—from the front desk to the radiation therapists.”

Candy had 20 treatments over four weeks in June and July. “It was very convenient,” she said. “I’d get up and exercise in the morning, and then go to my 10 a.m. appointment Monday through Friday. They were so good about keeping patients separate and safe with social distancing and taking my temperature at each visit. The radiation therapists happily answered every question I had, and I’d still be on my way again no more than 15 minutes later, with the rest of the day to do whatever I wanted or need to.”

Candy marked off each day of her treatments on a calendar and focused on remaining positive. Candy said she had plenty of help staying positive from her TBRO team, who helped her navigate beating cancer and took an interest in her as a whole person.

“It was all so positive,” Candy said. “They are good folks, and I really thank them and highly recommend them.”