Patient Stories

Robens Napolitan

Robens Napolitan – Lung Cancer

“I would strongly recommend the Spokane CyberKnife and Radiation Oncology Center to anyone who has cancer: not only for the technical advantages but also because the staff is made up of real, loving people.”

At age 70, Robens Napolitan is a woman who wears many hats: her favorites being the gardener, landscaper, poet, and painter. Through these creative pursuits, Robens illustrates the splendor and majesty of the natural world and inspires others to enjoy its calming, therapeutic effects. Vibrant and full of vitality, she is very much connected to the outdoors and eagerly shares the unique feelings and emotions one can only fully experience between the sun and soil. Even when faced with a cancer diagnosis, she would not allow any situation to overshadow her passions.

In 2014, Robens began experiencing rectal problems, and following a colonoscopy, doctors discovered a cancerous growth in her lower rectum. Initially, Robens’ physician referred her to a center for chemotherapy and traditional radiation therapy, but the experiences at that center were less than ideal.

“I felt like I became ‘someone who had cancer’; I was not a human being. They were not interested in me as a person at all. I felt I lost some of my humanity and credibility in who I am. All of a sudden I was just a patient: I had this illness and that was it. I’m a person who has cancer; I’m not cancer.”

She sought a second opinion – an opportunity to work with a personable staff – and visited the Spokane CyberKnife and Radiation Oncology Center: the newest comprehensive cancer treatment center in the Spokane area, which offers the most advanced procedures available. Working closely with Dr. Raj Rajendra, MD, and Dr. Karie-Lynn Kelly, MD, Robens underwent a combined approach to beating her cancer: the strengths of medical oncology with Dr. Raj, and radiation oncology through the TrueBeam system with Dr. Kelly. Most importantly, Robens felt at ease with staff specialists, who treated her with the utmost care and respect.

“Dr. Raj is a very hands-on person, which to me is an important criterion for me, and Dr. Kelly is very kind and calm,” Robens explains. “They took me through everything that would happen, and what I could expect. The staff at the center was just wonderful, and I bonded with everyone – I even brought flowers to share!”

The TrueBeam system was chosen over traditional radiation therapy because of its new level of synchronization between imaging, patient positioning, and motion management, which improves, the precision, accuracy, and speed of treatments.
As a result, cancerous growths can be diminished or destroyed without damaging nearby healthy tissue. Under the precision of TrueBeam, side effects are greatly reduced in comparison to other forms of cancer treatment: other than soreness attributed to the position of her tumor, and a bit of nausea, Robens experienced no adverse side effects. And as an additional benefit, TrueBeam treatment sessions take a marginal amount of time: in Robens’ case, less than 10 minutes per session.
As a special benefit, the center’s relaxing environment was as powerful a benefit as its medical technology and expertise; aesthetically, the artist felt right at home.

“I believe the natural world helps in healing, and we bring in what goes on outside of us. The center is absolutely gorgeous and has a healing garden and a labyrinth. During winter, they turned the waterfall back on just for us!”

Overall, Robens’ combined treatment plan was a success; together with the team, they have achieved their goals in treating her cancer. Now, with this threat dissipating, Robens is ready to continue sharing the radiance of nature: through each stroke of a paintbrush; the connection of pen to paper; the care in planting beautiful arrangements. Her journey has been one of inspiration.