FCS Patient Stories

FCS Patient Stories

Amy Rodriguez

Her warrior spirit and an expert and caring Florida Cancer Specialists team that greeted her like family each day, helped Amy Rodriguez beat breast cancer. After a long and demanding year-and-a-half of treatment, Rodriguez is grateful for the chance to keep serving her community and country as a member of the Army National Guard, and to continue raising her son and watching him grow up.

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Brian Belcastro

After being diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer, Brian Belcastro was told he’d need an intensive radiation treatment spanning across nine weeks. After seeking another opinion, he found Dr. Luis Carrascosa at Florida Cancer Specialists’ Ocala Cancer Center, who was able to treat him in 5 sessions. Now, after completing his treatment without side effects, Brian that sharing his experience will encourage other men to get screened and treated if necessary.

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Bridgett Riley

A diagnosis of stage 3 rectal cancer was a jarring blow to professional boxer, kickboxer and stunt woman Bridgett Riley. At Florida Cancer Specialists she was able to receive the comprehensive care she needed, close to home. Brittney credits her FCS team for providing her the expertise, love, patience and hope she needed to win her cancer fight.

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Dana McCool

Following a breast cancer diagnosis in 2011, Dana McCool found herself in a vulnerable position as she was uninsured at the time. After many calls to hospitals, she reached out to Florida Cancer Specialists, where she was helped regain insurance, and received quality care. In 2023, Dana was diagnosed with stage four bone cancer and is currently receiving care from FCS Medical Oncologist/Hematologist Victor W. Melgen, MD.

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Don Dewitt

FCS patient and three-time cancer fighter Don Dewitt understands the importance of excellent healthcare. As a former hospital administrator and emergency medical services personnel, he knew what to look for when he began his cancer treatment journey more than 20 years ago. Recently, Don sat down with medical oncologist and hematologist Dr. Raymond Esper to recall their journey together and share his appreciation for the quality care he received from Dr. Esper and his FCS care team.

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Emmanuel George

Emmanuel George, of Crawfordville, had received the results of the routine blood work done to monitor his diabetes when his primary care physician referred him to an oncologist, Dr. Scott Tetreault at FCS.

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Helena Moscato

For two years, Helena Moscato searched for answers when she began experiencing frequent urination and UTIs. After receiving a biopsy, she learned she had advanced-stage bladder cancer and began to receive care from FCS medical oncologist/hematologist Ana Van Der Wall, MD. When her daughter Rachele learned of her mother’s diagnosis, she moved up her wedding date so her mom could be there. Dr. Van Der Wall safely adjusted her treatment schedule to allow Helena to enjoy the day and be present without any side effects of her treatment.

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Isabel Owens

Hearing the words “you have cancer” is a heart-stopping, gut-wrenching, breath-arresting moment when time seems to freeze. For the physicians, nurses, technicians, counselors and support staff members in the Florida Cancer Specialists network, dealing with the emotional toll of a cancer diagnosis is as important as treating the cancer itself.

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Jacqueline Ambrose

Jacqueline Ambrose forged a strong connection with Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute which was established well before she began serving the practice as Associate General Counsel. Her story, like so many others whose lives have been touched by cancer personally, is inspirational and defines her “why” at FCS.

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Jim Marshall

Tampa Bay businessman Jim Marshall has always hustled in his career and athletics, so when he began to feel tired and run down in the fall of 2005, he immediately started looking for answers. After Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute Medical Oncologist and Hematologist Idelfia Marte, MD, diagnosed him with Hodgkin lymphoma, he tackled his treatment with the goal of running a marathon when he was finished — achieving his goal in 2006.

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John Sodeika

The healthy, active, 54-year-old father of two, John Sodeika, was shocked when he received an advanced gastric cancer diagnosis in 2019. Thanks to his loving family and friends, positive attitude, and treatment from Dr. Rubin, Dr. Wang, and his Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute team, he is off treatment and living his life to the fullest!

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Kathryn Bergeron

After discovering a lump in her breast, Kathryn Bergeron learned she had breast cancer. Initially Kathryn was less concerned because the lump felt like it was underneath her rib and not directly on her breast. Luckily she decided to have it checked out anyway. After diagnostic testing Kathryn learned that what she thought was a single breast lump, was in reality five or six different tumors and she was met in the hospital by FCS Oncologist Swati Pathak, MD.

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Kristin Dayton

Kristin Dayton recounts her journey with Stage 2A ovarian cancer. She shares how her medical oncologist Raul Storey, MD and his team were able to help her fight and overcome cancer and regain a healthy life.

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Kristin Harmel

The New York Times repeat best-selling author Kristin Harmel is no stranger to telling stories. After her recent breast cancer diagnosis, she made the decision to share the news publicly. Her own personal story and message stressing the importance of regular screenings made just as large of an impact as one of her best-selling novels. Today, she can proudly add “breast cancer survivor” to her list of esteemed accolades. She credits the support from her FCS medical oncologist Sonalee K. Shroff, MD and her entire medical team for the world-class care she has received.

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Linda Beinert

After major surgery and a stage four diagnosis, Linda Beinert felt helpless and scared following a poor prognosis from her surgeon. When she met FCS Medical Oncologist/Hematologist Renjitha Ignatius, MD, she immediately felt a connection with her and felt well cared for. After two years of checkpoint inhibitive therapy, Linda is now free of disease and is living a comfortable life.

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Marissa Lenney

Marissa Lenney and her husband were happily building their life together—pursuing their careers and moving into a new house. They knew that having a child would complete their family. What they didn’t know is that the pregnancy would spur an estrogen and progesterone-fed form of inflammatory breast cancer. Within 24 hours of her diagnosis, Marissa had her first appointment at her local Florida Cancer Specialists to start her chemotherapy treatment.  

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Marissa Young

Her car and cell phone were critical to Marissa Young’s treatment for B-cell Lymphoma. Thanks to grants provided by the Florida Cancer Specialists Foundation, Marissa was able to focus on resting and healing rather than worrying about paying these bills. She is deeply grateful for the community-based support that aided in her cancer journey and recovery.

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Mark Henning Anderson

When Mark Henning Anderson was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2013 and had failed to respond to a couple standard treatments, he decided it was time to try a clinical trial treatment. Under the care of the Director of Drug Development and medical oncologist/hematologist Manish R. Patel, MD, Mark began to respond well to a treatment that later went on to become FDA-approved. Mark says, “Without Clinical Trials, I wouldn’t be here today, to be perfectly candid.” Clinical trials are crucial to advancing cancer treatments, providing better, safer, and more effective options for patients in the future. FCS offers clinical trials at 37 of its locations.

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Mark Pope

Following his colonoscopy, Mark Pope was shocked to learn he had cancer. The surgery, radiation and chemotherapy treatments that followed wore him down, and he was anxious about a scheduled Pet/CT scan. Florida Cancer Specialists Pet/CT Technician Erika Price, who, from family experiences understands what patients are feeling, took the time to connect with Mark and ease his anxiety.

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Neil Breitenbach

When champion kart racer, Neil Breitenbach, felt a sharp pain in his chest, he never expected to be diagnosed with stage 3 metastatic breast cancer. From his very first consultation with Florida Cancer Specialists, Neil knew he was in the best place he could be because of FCS’ ongoing advances in breast cancer research. His care team put him at ease — listening to every question and laying out a personalized treatment plan — and they’ve been fighting together ever since.

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Peggy Moore

Peggy and Brian Moore first met at her parent’s home when Brian was a Peace Corps volunteer. It took 34 years for fate to bring the couple together in marriage. Since they wed, Peggy has survived breast cancer and now, thanks to Dr. Vikas Malhotra in Hernando County, she is beating the odds and recovering from pancreatic cancer.

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Ric R

Ric and his wife were excited to retire early and spend their retirement traveling and exploring the world. However, after a poor reaction to surgery, Ric found himself battling a pulmonary embolism and blood clots in both legs. Due to clotting and the blood thinners, it was unsafe for him to travel. In December 2022, Ric learned he would need surgery, but due to his blood clotting condition sought the help of a hematologist to ensure safety during surgery. Florida Cancer Specialists Medical Oncologist/Hematologist Dr. Brandon Konkel was able to alter his medications, which not only made his surgery safe but improved the quality of his life. Now, Ric and his wife plan to make up for lost time and travel as much as possible with their newfound freedom.

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Ryan Clanton

After a testicular cancer diagnosis in his late 20s, Ryan Clanton didn’t believe that he’d ever be able to ever have children. Now, against all odds, Ryan is a father and is 15 years cancer-free. He recently reached out to his oncologist, Dr. Lucio Gordan, to update him on how much his life has changed since his initial diagnosis.

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Shannon Gunn

No one in Shannon Gunn’s family ever had cancer. Thankfully, she listened to her body and got checked out when she discovered a lump on her breast. After 10 months of aggressive treatment, the marathon runner and fitness trainer completed the Sunshine Skyway 10K race and soon crossed the finish line of the treatment phase of her cancer journey. She is grateful to her Florida Cancer Specialists medical oncologist Dr. Vikas Malhotra and team who, from day one, treated her like family.

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Stefanie Ascher

Stefanie Ascher leads a busy life as a 30-year-old mother and chiropractor. Here, she recounts the symptoms that led her to her diagnosis of stage IV non-Hodgkin lymphoma and what helped her overcome the greatest challenge of her life — fighting cancer. She credits much of her success to her care team at Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute: FCS Medical Oncologist and Hematologist Christopher Lobo, MD, Julie Pauly, APRN, and the entire FCS Port Charlotte team, who were there for her every step of the way.

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Stephanie Peace

A visit to her dermatologist to check what she thought were simple skin lesions indicated that Stephanie had cancer. Tests later revealed the diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer. The schoolteacher and mother of three had never smoked. A biomarker test performed by FCS medical oncologist Dr. Syed F. Zafar found a rare genetic mutation. Stephanie continues to inspire others with her resilience and determination.

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Rachel Clark

After experiencing nervousness and anxiety in waiting rooms during her mother’s cancer journey, Rachel Clark was inspired to make the experience better for others. Now, every month, in her mother’s memory, Rachel delivers a flower and a note to FCS Medical Oncologist/Hematologist Dr. Jennifer Byer to be given to one of her patients that day.

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Susan Bellamy

There were no early signs to warn Susan Bellamy that she had breast cancer. She found hope and healing at Florida Cancer Specialists, where oncologists Dr. Sawsan Bishey and the team greeted her with a smile every day and cheered her on through every step of her journey. Join Susan as she rings the bell to celebrate the end of her treatment.

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Tarshia Rivera

Florida resident Tarshia Rivera was diagnosed with an aggressive stage 3 breast cancer in 2014. After successfully completing intensive treatment therapy with Florida Cancer Specialists, the mom of four young children learned her cancer had spread to her other breast. Fortunately, through participation in three different clinical trials offered through FCS’s Drug Development Unit, she had a positive response. Her message: Never give up.

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