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A cancer diagnosis affects more than just the patient

Dayton Physicians NetworkThis past March, Larry Pratt heard the words no one ever wants to hear: “You have cancer.”

He was shocked by the diagnosis and fearful about all of the unknowns that lay ahead. He knew that lives around him were about to change dramatically. It didn’t matter that the cancer diagnosis wasn’t his — as far as the 79-year-old Middletown resident was concerned, it might as well have been.

His wife, Elaine, had breast cancer, but he was ready to do whatever needed to be done to get her through it.

“She’s my best friend,” said Pratt. “I’m always going to be right by her side, through the good and the bad. Our daughter and son, who live in town, also came along to many doctor appointments to support their mother.”

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Ryan Steinmetz, MD

Ryan Steinmetz, MD

The far-reaching effects of a cancer diagnosis
As anyone with the disease knows, a cancer diagnosis also affects family and friends. Sometimes, the intense feelings and emotions surrounding the diagnosis — fear, sadness, anxiety, anger, and even hopelessness — can be just as overwhelming for the loved ones of cancer patients as they are for the patients themselves.

“It’s often a whirlwind after someone receives a cancer diagnosis. They’re typically so shocked and in a state of disbelief that their understanding of the situation isn’t great,” said Ryan Steinmetz, MD, radiation oncologist with Dayton Physicians Network. “I am there to fill in the blanks, to help patients and their loved ones get a clear understanding of their situation, and to get everyone focused on a treatment plan.”

Dr. Steinmetz says that family or close friends typically accompany cancer patients to appointments, not only for moral support, but also to be the patient’s eyes and ears — listening carefully, taking notes and asking important questions for them, as patients often are still trying to wrap their brains around their diagnosis.

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Advice for family and friends of cancer patients
“One of the biggest pieces of advice I give is to write down your questions ahead of time,” advised Dr. Steinmetz. “So many times, patients and their families come in to see me and find that they suddenly can’t remember any of the questions they wanted to ask.”

His other advice? Take things one day at a time.

“There’s often multiple treatments involved with a cancer diagnosis — surgery, radiation, chemotherapy. It can be overwhelming and so easy to get bogged down and stressed out about it all,” said Dr. Steinmetz. “That’s why I advise my patients just to take things one step at a time. Just focus on and deal with what is happening right now.”

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Happy days will be here again
Thankfully, for Elaine Pratt, 78, the prognosis was good.

“They diagnosed her with Stage 1A breast cancer,” said Pratt. “The surgeon said it was about the lowest diagnosis [in terms of severity] one can get.”

In fact, Elaine’s cancer was caught so early that, when they met with Dr. Steinmetz after her lumpectomy surgery, he informed her that she could stop there. While there was a small risk that some cancer cells might still be lingering, she didn’t have to do the 30 radiation treatments if she didn’t want to.

She opted to err on the side of caution and have the treatments.

“She’s almost done with the treatments,” said Pratt. “She’s definitely been feeling more tired and has the sunburn-like side effect of the treatments. But otherwise, it hasn’t been too bad for her. We’ve met with Dr. Steinmetz every Wednesday after her treatment. I can’t say enough good things about him and the entire practice. Everyone has been absolutely wonderful.”

Dayton Physicians Network is proud to provide patients access to many promising clinical trials, as well as state-of-the-art radiation oncology treatments. In addition, with 13 practice locations from Greenville to Middletown, patients can receive cutting-edge cancer care while remaining close to home.