Ramona, a bookkeeper who lives in Queens with her three children, had been experiencing persistent back pain. In May 2018, the pain became so severe that she could no longer sit at her desk. She made an appointment the next day to see an internist at NYU Langone. Her internist ordered an MRI, which showed bone lesions, and referred Ramona to Boris Kobrinsky, MD, an oncologist at Perlmutter Cancer Center.
Next came the PET scan. That’s when Dr. Kobrinsky asked her to come see him right away. “As soon as I heard the words ‘lung cancer,’ I started to cry,” Ramona recalls. A biopsy confirmed that she had stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. In addition to the painful tumor on her back, there were eight tumors on her brain.
Fearing the worst, Ramona began to think about all the important moments she would miss—her older children’s weddings and her younger son’s high school graduation and basketball games.
But then she met with her radiation oncologist, Benjamin Cooper, MD, at Perlmutter Cancer Center’s Lung Cancer Center. “Dr. Cooper gave me hope and saved my life. He explained my treatment options and helped me focus on what we could do next,” she says.
Ramona received 10 radiation treatments on her back. To treat the tumors on her brain, neurosurgeon Douglas Kondziolka, MD, the director of the Center for Advanced Radiosurgery, delivered a session of Gamma Knife radiosurgery, which releases a precisely targeted beam of radiation. Ramona’s oncologist, Dr. Kobrinsky, also recommended she start immunotherapy, a type of treatment that boosts the body’s immune response to cancer.
During this time, Ramona experienced a complication that required a temporary colostomy—a surgical procedure that creates an opening from the colon through the abdominal wall. The colostomy, performed by an NYU Langone surgeon, required Ramona to be hospitalized for a week. “I was in the beautiful new Kimmel Pavilion building with my own room, and my husband was able to stay with me the whole time,” Ramona says.
“My team at NYU Langone treated me like a person, not a statistic. They know who I am, not just the lung cancer.”—Ramona, Age 48
Throughout her treatment, she says the nurses and doctors at NYU Langone helped her stay positive and looked after her physical as well as mental health. Although she needed to see multiple specialists, Ramona found it easy to navigate her care. “I love the ease of referrals at NYU Langone. All the doctors have my records, and I don’t have to explain my medical history.”
In September 2018, Ramona began receiving her immunotherapy medication via infusion every three weeks. Now, more than a year into her immunotherapy treatment, Dr. Kobrinsky says Ramona has had a remarkable recovery. While she continues to be on immunotherapy, she is back to her normal daily life. “Thanks to Dr. Kobrinsky and my team at Perlmutter Cancer Center, I’m back at work, and I’m enjoying spending time with the people I love. I even went to Florida for my sister-in-law’s wedding,” she says.