Stephen Bonack of Raleigh, North Carolina, was diagnosed with bladder cancer in the midst of preparing for prostate cancer treatment. In 2009, he had a surgery to treat the bladder cancer and ended up with complications. That’s when he sought a second opinion at Duke.
Brant Inman, MD, a surgical oncologist at Duke Cancer Institute, offered him several options for treatment. “My wife was in tears because she was afraid I would have to have everything ripped out,” Bonack says. “But when we met with Dr. Inman, he is so good not only medically, but in his patient and people skills. He spent an hour and a half talking about possibilities. We were happy that we had other things that could be explored. He went in and cleaned up what the other doctor had done and put me on the road to recovery.”
Bonack was in remission for three years, and when the cancer came back, he had additional treatment. He has been back in remission for almost six months.
“Duke is good at multi-disciplinary care and comprehensive care,” Inman says. “My belief is that team-oriented care gives better outcomes. I work very closely with medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and other surgeons to treat tumors in a multi-disciplinary fashion. We offer all the options, we coordinate that for patients, and we tailor treatments to each patient’s individual circumstances.”
“All of the people at Duke are truly professional, outstanding people, and they’re caring.”--bladder cancer survivor Stephen Bonack
Bonack appreciates the team approach as well as the personal care he has received at Duke. “Not only has Dr. Inman given us options, but he’s got that air of confidence that makes you feel comfortable,” Bonack says. At one point, Bonack had a PSA (prostate specific antigen) test come back with high values. Inman called him to let him know that the result was likely because of the chemotherapy he was taking. “He called me personally on Memorial Day because he didn’t want me to start looking things up on the Internet and get scared,” Bonack explains. “All of the people at Duke are truly professional, outstanding people, and they’re caring.”
Tony Chen, a retired civil and environmental engineer, has also lived with bladder cancer since 2009, most of that time under Inman’s care. In 2011, Chen’s cancer became invasive, and Inman recommended chemotherapy and surgery. Chen had the chemotherapy at Duke Raleigh, which is close to his home. Inman performed the surgery, a cystectomy (bladder removal), at Duke University Medical Center in Durham.
Chen say he tries to live a normal life. “Of course, if you have a bladder removed, your quality of life is not 100 percent. But I’d say mine is close to it,” Chen says. He and his wife walk two or three times a week at a lake near their home, and they spend time visiting their children in other states. Chen is also active with a local bladder cancer support group that meets each month.
“The care was excellent at Duke,” Chen says. “This is a journey, and I’m happy to still be alive.”