“You can’t count on everything all the time, but I’m generally a positive person.” Retired firefighter, Bernard “Bernie” Merlino, 74, did count on his medical team at the Ella Millbank Foshay Cancer Center at Jupiter Medical Center to receive the best and most comprehensive care to treat his recent lung cancer diagnosis.
During Bernie’s regular check-up for his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema, his doctor Kenneth Fuquay, MD, Jupiter Medical Center board-certified pulmonologist, ordered his annual lung x-ray. A nodule Dr. Fuquay had been watching had grown. Not knowing if the nodule was cancerous, the doctor recommended several options, including a biopsy.
“It had grown and I just wanted it out,” recalls Bernie. “So my family and I started researching surgeons.” Dr. Fuquay recommended the Thoracic Surgery and Lung Center of Excellence at Jupiter Medical Center, directed by thoracic surgeon K. Adam Lee, MD. With encouragement from Bernie’s daughter who conducted some research of her own, he made an appointment and first saw Dr. Lee in July 2015.
“All of the medical staff I encountered was very professional, informative and friendly,” says Bernie.
“I knew exactly what to expect every step of the way. Valerie Fiordilino, Dr. Lee’s physician assistant, made me feel very comfortable, like I was part of her family. The navigational team was also very good about following up with me on everything.”
“Modern cancer care requires a collaborative approach to optimize the patient’s survival and quality of life,” explains Abraham Schwarzberg, MD, chief of oncology at Jupiter Medical Center. “Our experts work together to ensure comprehensive, coordinated care is available to guide each patient through diagnosis, treatment and recovery.”
One month later in August 2015, Bernie had his first surgery using the DaVinci Xi robot to remove the suspicious nodule, which was biopsied and deemed cancerous. And although he was facing a diagnosis of early stage lung cancer, Bernie says he felt very fortunate to have the team at Jupiter Medical Center watching out for him. “After the initial surgery another scan was conducted by Dr. Andrew Hall, a radiologist on the team, who noticed a second new suspicious nodule that was not initially apparent,” Four months after his first surgery, he had the second nodule removed and it was found to be another separate early stage lung cancer. Bernie adds, “The radiologists on Dr. Lee’s team are who I trust now.”
“Technology has come a long way and this gives me hope. I will be forever grateful to Jupiter Medical Center – I am happy that I have been able to face this head on and I know I have a place to turn to that I can trust should I need additional care in the future,” boasts Bernie. Bernie will need to undergo post-operative scans every three to four months for the next two years, and if those are clear then every 12 months after that.
“You can tell he is feeling better,” adds wife, Iris. “He was able to barbecue with our two daughters and their families this past Father’s Day. We could not ask for more.” Bernie and Iris are also planning a cruise up the east coast in October. They are always looking for new adventures.