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Patient Stories

Many Summa Health patients have shared their experience and journey through their screening process, cancer diagnosis and survivorship.


Debbie Starcher

Radiation Oncology and Breast Cancer Patient

Debbie felt very confident in her care team at Summa through a lumpectomy and radiation therapy after her breast cancer diagnosis.


Debbie Starcher - During a routine breast self exam, I found a lump, so I immediately called Summa to make an appointment for a mammogram.

Immediately after the mammogram, Dr. Gulotta ordered a biopsy and that came back with cancer, which is a word that nobody wants to hear. I had a lumpectomy with Dr. Gulotta. She's very reassuring and such a breath of fresh air. I felt very confident.

Then I went through four weeks of radiation therapy with Dr. Streeter. Dr. Streeter's a peach. He's great. I love him to death. He answers every question that you have and then some and he never hesitates to make you feel good.

The entire team at Summa made me feel like I was just wrapped in a blanket of care. My motto is "My cancer, my team, my hospital, my cure." Thank you, Summa.


Keith Johnston

Throat Cancer Patient

After receiving treatment for stage 4 throat cancer, Keith credits Summa Health with saving his life.


Keith: I lead a very healthy lifestyle, I'm a runner, I eat well, but I just had this sore throat that I just couldn't explain. Ended up having a lump on the side of my throat, so I needed to get with my Summa doctors and and find out what was going on.

At Summa, the ENT diagnosed me with stage four throat cancer. Every fear comes to mind at that point. And that's when I came to the care of Dr. Desai and Dr. Goebel. The treatment team at Summa was professional, but still empathetic. The treatment involved seven weeks of radiation and chemo.

I am now happy to say that I am 18 months cancer-free. Every day is a new opportunity and a gift, and I credit Summa with saving my life so that now I can continue my running programs that help people with mental health and addiction problems. In fact, I'm really hoping that Dr. Desai will come out and run one of my races with me.


Tony Harbert

Blood Cancer Patient

A super-healthy guy surprised with a cancer diagnosis after routine wellness visit


Tony: I've always been a super healthy guy. Run marathons for decades so wasn't expecting anything at my regular yearly physical. At that visit, my blood work revealed high protein levels that concerned my doctor and at that point she referred me to Summa Health. I was diagnosed with this blood cancer, multiple myeloma, at the Cooper Pavilion.

Getting started with treatments was very important and currently going through chemo infusions twice a week. I love Dr. Pleat and the amazing team at Cooper Pavilion. There really is a team and a family attitude there.

I'm still able to train and run marathons. Yes, a lot slower than I used to, but still thankful. I truly view Dr. Pleat and his team as an answer to my prayers.


Yvonne Oliver

Breast Cancer Patient

Two-time breast cancer survivor shares how annual mammograms saved her life


Yvonne: I'm a two-time breast cancer survivor. Both times my cancer was detected on an annual mammogram at Summa Health. I wanted the very best care that I could get. And that option for me was Summa.

In both cases, Dr. Van Fossen was my surgeon. She has a gentle way of reassuring patients that we'll get through this and everything will be okay.

When Dr. Van Fossen told me that she was an advocate for breast cancer education among African-American women, that touched my heart. It really hit me how much I needed to work to get information out to women of color. Get those annual mammograms. They could save your life just as it did me because breast cancer picked a fight with the wrong woman in me.


Jack Hobensack

Tonsil Cancer Patient

Proud to be part of a clinical trial that not only helped him, but others


Jack: One morning, I was shaving, and I felt a lump. I called my primary physician at Summa, and he referred me to Dr. Desai right away. Testing revealed that I had tonsil cancer. I was numb. Dr. Desai, right away he told me, "We're gonna beat this." And he asked me if I would like to be in a clinical trial that prevented sores in your mouth from radiation. I said, if this would help someone else, I said I'm your guy.

The result I had being in the trial, I had no sores in my mouth. I had no pain. It's fantastic that Summa and Dr. Desai were involved in these clinical trials that will help people down the road not have to suffer.

Dr. Desai was more than my doctor. He was my coach. I couldn't have gotten anybody better than him. Summa, everybody, they saved my life.


Nadera Cathy Bacchus

Breast Cancer Patient

Experienced a different level of calmness during treatment


Nadera: I had my routine mammogram at Summa, and that showed suspicious cells. I then had a biopsy and that came back as a positive for breast cancer. When I heard the word cancer, I was in total shock. Dr. Van Fossen, my surgeon, performed the lumpectomy and removed the cancerous growth. Dr. Goebel, my oncologist, was so caring I felt like she was my sister. I knew I was getting the best possible care.

I had a full year of chemotherapy and radiation at the Summa Health Medina Medical Center. I would sit there and look out at birds eating from the feeder, deer walking by. That bore me to a different level of calmness while I was receiving my chemotherapy. A year later I got the diagnosis that I was cancer-free, brilliant.

This cancer experience has brought me closer to God. And I feel as if I've got a second chance in life.


Amy Hallett

Kidney Cancer Patient

Devastated upon diagnosis, Dr. Nething gave her hope


Amy: Out of the blue, I have this excruciating stomach pain one evening, and I end up going to the emergency room. I have a CAT scan done, and they find I have acute appendicitis, and incidentally they find I have a mass on my left kidney. So I was referred to Dr. Nething at Summa Health for further care.

When I heard the word cancer, my heart fell. But Dr. Nething gave me hope. He had a plan of care in place by the time I left that first visit. We opted for the partial nephrectomy through robotic surgery. And it was successful. He saved most of my kidney.

I have so much to live for. And I have hope. Dr. Nething was important in giving me that hope. I trust him.


Robin Rice

Prostate Cancer Patient

Grateful to watch his grandchildren grow after beating prostate cancer


Robin: I was having trouble urinating. And I went to Summa Urology. During his examination, he discovered that my prostate was enlarged. Dr. Dankoff did a biopsy, and it was discovered that I had prostate cancer.

When you hear the word cancer, it's almost, it was like the end of life. When I met Dr. Arora, it was like a knight in shining armor. He let me know that it wasn't the end of life. And he scheduled robotic surgery. What I learned about robotic surgery is that it is so precise, they take out exactly what they need, and nothing more.

You know, when I got that call that I was cancer-free, my wife and I did a dance of joy and praise. I have 18 grandchildren and one great-grand. Dr. Arora has extended my life, as far as I'm concerned, for me to be able to watch them grow.

You know what I would say to guys? Set your pride aside. Get that prostate examination. It just might save your life.


Barb Bungard

Uterine Cancer Patient and MyChart User

Can’t imagine cancer journey without MyChart


Barb: When I first got my diagnosis of uterine cancer at Summa, one of the very first questions that I asked was, do you have MyChart, do you use MyChart? And that is crucial for me, because that's how I like to engage. To be able to know about your lab work, and to be able to ask questions related to your medications, or potential symptoms. It is so important to not have to depend upon a phone call, and the doctor's office and their availability.

Dr. Laskey and her team, Courtney and Eileen at the Cooper Cancer Pavilion have been awesome. They make me feel very comfortable that I can utilize MyChart any time for any reason.

So I never anticipated going down this cancer journey, but I cannot imagine not having MyChart available for me.


Jay Wheeland

Prostate cancer survivor shares the importance of screening


Jay: I just hadn't been to the doctor in years, and my wife finally talked me into it, and that's when they discovered the enlarged prostate. That's when I went to Summa Health, searched out Dr. Nething, and was actually diagnosed with the prostate cancer.

The recovery from the robotic surgery was absolutely minimal. I figured that guy pretty much saved my life. As a matter of fact, Dr. Nething and his staff invited me to a Rubber Ducks game to throw out the first pitch on Summa Health Cancer Awareness Night.

Now that the cancer is reading absolute minimal, I can spend time with my grand kids. God I love them.

My message to other men would be go get that prostate checked. Get the exam. It just might save your life.


Suzanne Titus

Colorectal Cancer Patient

Advises everyone to get a colonoscopy – it saved her life


Suzanne: I was having symptoms of pain and bleeding and trouble eliminating, and so, I went to Summa. My doctor recommended a colonoscopy and I had a diagnosis of colorectal cancer. I was stunned. I was referred to Dr. Kornbau at Barberton Hospital for surgery. He impressed me with his sincerity and his expertise. I'm sure is what made it so much easier for me.

After the surgery, I said I'm not gonna waste one minute of this time I've been given and I went outside and started gardening. I'm just so grateful to everybody over there at Summa. They're wonderful people.

My advice to everyone is to get that colonoscopy. It saved my life.


Martha Ward

Kidney Cancer Patient

Is grateful to be cancer-free after robotic surgery


Martha: I felt a pulling sensation and annoyance in my left side. My primary care doctor referred me to Summa. The ultrasound revealed two dark lesions on my kidney and I was sent to Summa urology. Dr. Arora told me surgery was needed immediately. The lesions in my left kidney were cancerous and they removed them robotically.

I had my surgery in the early stages of COVID, but I felt confident that Summa would keep me safe. Dr. Arora is my hero. He was so caring, so compassionate. He saved me, I am cancer-free. I am so relieved and happy and blessed to say that.

My grandsons are seven and nine, and I wanna live to see them grow up and dance at their weddings. And the kick is, I don't dance, but I might take lessons.


Aricia Robinson

Cancer Patient

Cancer was her wakeup call to live, love and be happy


Aricia: I was experiencing pain on my lower left side in the pelvic region, to the point where I couldn't move. I went to Summa Health and I met with Dr. Andrews and he diagnosed me with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. There was a huge tumor growing in my abdomen.

I met with Dr. Mahesh and he treated me like family. That was when I started to let go and let God. I believe that God puts people in your path and Dr. Mahesh was in mine. For four months I underwent chemotherapy at the Cooper Cancer Pavilion. Now I'm cancer free.

I know that Summa's with me for life. Cancer was my wakeup call to live, to love, to be happy, to smile, and to start all over and take in what life has to offer.


Marv Hodges

Head and Neck Cancer Patient

Explains how Summa Health helped change his life after cancer


Marv: For years I'd recognized that there was a lump on my neck. That led to ultimately having the lump removed. There was cancer, not only in the mass, but on my tonsil area. That's when I was introduced to Dr. Desai at the Cooper Cancer Pavilion located at Summa Hospital.

The treatment protocol was scheduled for 35 radiation treatments and then there were two chemo treatments scheduled. When you speak about the care that was provided me at Summa, excellent, very personable. You talk about bedside manner, Dr. Desai gets an A plus plus.

Life after cancer has really added a recognition of the importance of every breath you take. Before I may appreciate a day or an event, but now I appreciate the breath. And so that's what it has done for me.


Bobbie Donohew

Throat cancer survivor Bobbie Donohew shows gratitude with handmade blankets


Bobbie: I noticed a lump in my neck, and my ENT referred me to Dr. Desai and Dr. Mahesh at the Summa Cooper Cancer Pavilion.

The lump was malignant, and I had two chemotherapy sessions and 35 rounds of radiation to my neck.

I had my last visit with Dr. Desai about a month ago. He reached out and he put his arm around me, and he gave me a hug. And that meant the world to me, that he would show such compassion. And everybody at Summa has been like that.

I know that the Summa cancer team is gonna be there with me as a survivor for the rest of my life. They're gonna be my lifeline and my support mechanism. As a way of repaying my gratitude for the wonderful care that I received, I'm donating these beautiful handmade blankets to the chemotherapy patients at the Summa Cooper Cancer Pavilion.


Kathleen Wagner

Nurse and lung cancer patient Kathleen Wagner feels blessed for early detection


Kathleen: I was getting ready to go on a mission trip to Africa and I needed a full physical. As part of that physical at Summa I met all the criteria to have a CT scan of the lung. As it turned out, they found a nodule on my lung.

I was just overwhelmed with fear. As a nurse myself, I knew all the risks that were involved with this. But my faith, I just had strong confidence that I had a good team of doctors behind me. And they did find that it was cancerous. But the blessing was, because they caught it early, they only had to remove a section of my lung. I needed no treatment after that.

Dr. Bauman and Dr. Espinal were an absolute godsend for me. I got the cream of the crop with them. This cancer taught me how important it is to have those screenings done. And today it's like the cancer never even happened. And I've got this beautiful grandbaby that I'm gonna be there for. Yeah.


Frank McCray

Shares his prostate cancer story in hope of helping others


Frank: I hadn't been to a doctor in years. I was a healthy guy, and my wife said, "Go get checked." Turns out, my wife was right. I had high PSA levels, and that led me to Dr. Dankoff and Dr. Nething at Summa Health.

Dr. Dankoff did a biopsy that revealed that I indeed had prostate cancer. Dr. Nething gave me some treatment options. Robotic surgery was the best choice for me because of it being less invasive and a quicker recovery time.

Now that cancer is behind me, I have time that I can expect to spend with family and miraculous things are happening now. God has His hand on me. For some reason, He says, "I'm not done with you." And I love that. If just one person hears this and says, "I probably should go to the doctor, too," then I've done what I was supposed to do.


Rodney Thomas

Grateful for life-saving colonoscopy screening and colorectal surgery


Rodney: I originally went to Summa for gallbladder surgery. Because of my age, Dr. Pozsgay insisted that I have a colonoscopy. The colonoscopy revealed that I had two tumors that were cancerous.

When you hear that word cancer, it really shook me to the core. When I met Dr. Pozsgay and his staff, Heather and Dawn, they really put me at ease, put the surgery in terms that I really could understand. Then I went in for surgery and they actually removed a foot of my colon.

I really feel like I hit the jackpot with Dr. Pozsgay and to have him as a doctor was a true blessing. If I wouldn't have had my screening that he insisted on when I did, it might have been a whole different outcome.

My message to everyone is get your colonoscopy. It could save your life; if you don't do it for yourself, do it for the ones you love.

I love you, Pepe.

I love you.


Helen and Ossie Gordon

Celebrating 50 years of marriage … and cancer survivorship


Helen: Ossie and I have been married for 50 years. We do everything together, but we never imagined we would do cancer together. Last year I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and Ossie was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and we turned to Summa Health.

While I was getting chemotherapy, Ossie was getting radiation in the Cooper Cancer Pavilion...

Ossie: the same time. I went through 44 of radiation treatment.

Helen: At the Breast Center, I participated in a multidisciplinary clinic, and the whole team was there. My surgeon, oncologist, nutritionist and financial planning.

Ossie: We were celebrating 50 years of marriage this year, and we can now celebrate knowing that cancer is behind us thanks to Summa.


Debra Racey

Endometrial cancer survivor is grateful for her care team


Debra: I was experiencing some very heavy vaginal bleeding, so I did some research, and I found Dr. Robin Laskey here at Summa. You just get this overwhelming feeling of this person really, really cares. And I was constantly thanking my lucky stars that I had found her.

She told me that I did have endometrial cancer. It's like your whole world really does fall apart.

Dr. Laskey actually did robotic surgery on me, a total hysterectomy.

There are so many support services here at Cooper Cancer Center, and key amongst them was Dr. Jessica Moeller, who is a psychologist. She was a godsend to me.

If it weren't for those Summa doctors, I wouldn't be here today. I owe them my life. I literally have to pinch myself daily cause I am a cancer survivor. And I have beautiful hair again.


Traci Peltz

Breast cancer survivor finds strength


Traci: The first thing I thought about was my family because cancer does not just affect you, it affects your family. It affects everybody around you. It affects your friends. You put on that brave face and you fight. You fight real hard.

The nurses, they made me feel at ease because I was so scared. Kari was there for me during my biopsy, holding my hand, and I had such amazing care. Tina would check me in and would always have a smile on her face and tell me how pretty I looked when I would go to the window. Little things like that really make a difference.

It just doesn't take one person to make things happen. It take an army of them. An army of people at Summa was amazing, and they helped me.

Summa was a godsend to me, and I owe them everything. I'm cancer-free because of them.


Pam and Jerry Kusar

A true champion beats cancer


Pam: I have always worked out since I was 15. I always lived a healthy lifestyle, and when I got the news that I had cancer, I didn't know what the rest of my life was going to be. I was scared.

Jerry: You gotta to put your faith in God. You gotta pray for the doctors that will be treating you.

Pam: The care was amazing. Starting with Dr. Andrews. He was very comforting. The nurse navigator made us feel like we were part of the care team.

Jerry: The little things like holding my wife's hands and looking her in the eye and saying "you're going to be ok, you're going to be fine." They really helped get through it, for both of us.

Pam: Those little words that you say makes all the difference in the world. I've lifted a lot of weights in my life, but this was probably the biggest, and I did it.

Jerry: We kicked cancer's butt. Every way to Sunday. She did it.


Judi Hollenbaugh

Survives breast cancer surrounded with kindness


Judi: I came to Summa for a mammogram. They saw something suspicious, and the diagnosis was breast cancer.

Dr. Sprance was incredible. She was patient. She was kind. She was informative. And then I might cry for a little bit, then she would tell me it was going to be ok. And she'd say, "you're going to be fine Judi, you're going to be fine." And that's what I needed to hear.

And then I met with Kari Kovach who is my guardian angel. Kari was right there the day of the surgery. She sat beside me, and she smiled that gigantic smile of her's, which always makes you feel a little bit better if you see somebody smiling. And she said, "don't be afraid, I'm not gonna leave you."

They treat your illness. They treat your heart. They treat your soul. They make you feel that it's going to be ok. And I can't say enough about it. I really can't. It's a super place. This is where I will always come.


Suzanne Harvey

Found a partner in her high risk cancer journey


Suzanne: I am at very high risk for breast cancer. My mother and my aunt both had breast cancer, and also I have dense tissue, so these are all very high risk factors.

I was so thankful to know that Summa's Center for Breast Health had all of the tests that I needed. The 3D mammography, the needle biopsy, surgical biopsies and also the breast MRI, so that we could completely screen for breast cancer.

I would describe Dr. Van Fossen as an extremely knowledgeable friend. I love that Summa feels like a partner to me in my healthcare journey.

I really have become an advocate for women's health and especially for mammogram screenings because if we don't take care of ourselves, we can't take care of those we love. I want to be with my family for as long as possible. I want to watch my son grow up, and I want to get old with my husband.


Sharon Jones-Winfrey

Picking up speed after surviving breast cancer


Sharon: I went in for my regular mammogram, and find out that I have cancer, and it was the furthest thing from my mind. And I trust that Summa Breast Center is the best place for me to have that kind of diagnosis. I know that I am in good hands, and so if there is anyone that's going to help me live longer, I know it's going to the Summa Breast Center.

Summa Breast Center offers so many options for support. They have a wig salon, a massage salon, they offer financial support. Everybody is very compassionate to you, and they realize that you're a person and not just a process. I believe it was the best decision that I ever made to go to Summa Breast Center.

I'm planning on living until I'm about 120, so this is just a hurdle that I'm jumping right now, and I'm going to get past it, and in fact I'm going to pick up speed afterwards. I am a survivor of breast cancer.


John Steven Bucy

Surrounded with care & compassion


John: When I first got the diagnosis that I was facing pancreatic cancer, I put my hands to the skilled hands of Dr. Williams. His skills and his care are a big part of the reason that I think I'm still here today. He wasn't just my surgeon, but he became my friend.

There were a lot of people that lit up my day that were employees. Some that cleaned my room, and the nursing staff was just excellent. Every time I came to the office, Betty always had words of encouragement for me. She was excellent in giving care. There was just always that care and concern and compassion. The word has kind of gotten out there that I'm one of those survivors. They kind of call me the miracle man now down at the chapel where I pastor.

God bless all those employees at Summa Health that helped save my life.


Jamie McKinley

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor is back to being a mom


Jamie: I'm a mother, and I have two small children, and just to be hit with the word that you have cancer just really rocks your whole soul to the core.

It came back that it was Hodgkin's Lymphoma. That you have cancer, it's hard to hear that.

I was grateful that that was the ER that I went to because then we ended up in the perfect place to help me, and that was Summa.

Dr. Mahesh told us, "I'm gonna be your co-pilot. I'm gonna be there with you through your entire treatment." One nurse, his name was Larry, he was a nurse in the ER, and I started crying. He hugged me, and he said, "you just gotta drive through it and push yourself through it." Sally fit me for a wig and she was so caring, and Summa sent in social workers to help me answer any questions. How to tell my children. Without Summa they wouldn't have, I wouldn't have had that.

I'm back to being a mom, and I have plans for my family, and I'm in them, and I am grateful for Summa for that.


Vic Meyers

Experiencing joy after overcoming throat cancer


Vic: Initially I felt a lump in my neck, and then I went to Summa Barberton. And it was there that it was determined that I did have cancer of the throat.

Dr. Park was blessing. He performed the surgery. He did everything in his power to protect my voice knowing that I was a minister.

I love telling the story of Barberton, it's just a staff that's very empathetic.

Jamie, my infusion nurse, was very personable. You didn't even realize you were going through treatment.

The cancer support group is an arena where you can realize that you're not going through something like this alone. And I owe where I am after five years to Summa Barberton and the medical professionals who helped me through this ordeal.

In order to do sermons, voices are very important. So I'm back to performing weddings, and it's a great joy being able to do that.


Rose Trout

Bone cancer survivor teaches us it's treatable and beatable


Rose: I was just having a lot of lower back pain, and I thought it was just my sciatica. I'm a first grade teacher, and I'm on my feet a lot. I was referred to a Summa orthopedic specialist, and they found it was bone cancer. It was bone cancer of the hip region.

Everything runs through your mind, especially about your kids and your family. You worry about them.

And then I was introduced to Dr. Weiner, who is the best of the best. And he said, "It's treatable and beatable." And that is all I needed to hear.

He really researched my case to make sure he was doing the best thing medically for me. And for a doctor to do that, tells you how much they care about their patients. That's Dr. Weiner.

And I went through chemo, surgery and then rehab. Thanks to Dr. Weiner and the Summa staff I'm cancer-free. I'm back to being a mom again. Back in the classroom teaching those kids.


Dwight Konic

Not giving up after prostate cancer diagnosis


Dwight: I found out I had prostate cancer. I had the prostate removed and found out it had metastasized. So then I came under the care at Summa Health under Dr. Nething. He looks young enough to be my son.

Because he's young, I know that he will be up on the latest techniques involving cancer care. Dr. Nething is helping me control my cancer through medication. Dr. Nething's message is no matter what your circumstance is, don't give up hope. There are things that can always be done.

Cancer doesn't keep me from doing anything that I want to do. I ride my motorcycle, go on vacations.

I do have a message for men about their health in general. Keep up your yearly physical and get your tests done for prostate, colon, whatever's recommended. Even if I can only help one person, that's one more person that I've helped. And try to be a small piece of helping in someone else through their journey.

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