Cumberland Times-News

Local News

June 19, 2010

Frostburg businessman benefiting from latest oncology technology

BALTIMORE — Phil and Linda Kenney of Frostburg never thought they’d be spending their honeymoon at Hope Lodge in Baltimore, a home-away-from-home haven for cancer patients and their families, run by the American Cancer Society.  The couple, together for more than 20 years before marrying a few months ago, also never thought they’d be spending Phil’s 56th birthday at Greater Baltimore Medical Center where he’s receiving daily radiation therapy and chemotherapy for stage 4 tonsil cancer.

Diagnosed in early March following a visit to his primary care physician when he discovered swollen lymph nodes and “popping” sounds in his ear, Phil was referred by a longtime friend to the Sandra & Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute at GBMC, because he wanted an expert in head and neck cancer. Since 1980, GBMC’s Milton J. Dance Jr. Head and Neck Center, the region’s most comprehensive interdisciplinary service dedicated to patients with head and neck conditions, has provided treatment to patients from all over the world.

Three days later, Phil had his first appointment at GBMC, and his cancer journey began, with the couple traveling 300 miles roundtrip every week for the past several weeks, leaving Western Maryland on Sundays and heading home on Fridays, to take advantage of the personalized care and technological advances offered at GBMC.

The Kenney’s have been embraced by an entire care team, and Phil has been able to take advantage of the latest advance in oncology technology, the RapidArc linear accelerator. This technology, one of the most sophisticated linear accelerators on the market, uses Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) to target the cancer site with pinpoint accuracy. GBMC became the first community hospital in the Baltimore area to deliver radiation therapy using the RapidArc linear accelerator, treating its first patient in January 2010.

Kenney began his treatment with an innovative surgery (submandibular gland transfer) designed to transpose his salivary gland forward, out of the way of radiation, so that it could continue to produce saliva and alleviate one of the potential side effects of dry mouth. Now three weeks into his combined chemotherapy and radiation therapy, Phil’s tumor has been reduced by more than 40 percent. After the last treatment on Friday, the couple are heading home for a couple of weeks of rest and recovery, but will soon return to GBMC to meet with Phil’s surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, social worker and other oncology staff to discuss the next treatment plan, which likely will include additional surgery.

But first, the couple will be among the Hope Lodge residents treated to a special dinner — and birthday wishes for Phil (who turns 56 on Thursday) — being served Wednesday evening by more than a dozen GBMC oncology staff members.  That’s after Phil and Linda spend more than seven hours at GBMC on Wednesday, where Phil will receive two radiation treatments and a four-hour chemotherapy session.

“Hope Lodge has really been a godsend for us,” Linda Kenney said. “We originally thought about staying in a hotel but I would’ve never been able to make it as well emotionally as I have. At Hope Lodge, you become a huge family, and develop strong bonds with other caregivers.”

The Kenney’s are the first from GBMC to stay at Hope Lodge, which offers lodging at no cost for cancer patients being treated at hospitals throughout the Baltimore area.  “I’d recommend Hope Lodge for anyone in Baltimore for cancer care who needs some TLC to help them through,” Linda Kenney said.

Staying at Hope Lodge has also allowed Phil to remain involved, via e-mail, with his family business, Kenney Signs, Inc., a staple of the Western Maryland business landscape for more than 60 years.

The cancer diagnosis proved to be the impetus for Phil and Linda to ‘make things right’ and have a Catholic wedding in April.  Phil was a smoker for a few years three decades ago, and wanted to be sure Linda would be able to have a say in healthcare decisions affecting him. “The whole team here has been so great,” Phil said.  “The personal attention has just been so great.”

Robert Brookland, MD, GBMC’s chairman of Radiation Oncology, said the RapidArc technology is an excellent example of how technological advances are improving the quality of care for cancer patients such as Kenney.

“RapidArc does a superior job of targeting radiation directly to the tumor, while protecting critical structures,” said Brookland. “Treatment time is cut in half compared to that of other machines, so the patient is more comfortable and has less time to lay still.”

This article was provided by Michael Schwartzberg, media relations manager, Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

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