Photograph by H. Scott Heist
Until Jim Maholic was diagnosed with cancer, he had only been in the ER once in his lifetime. He had enjoyed good health most of his life, and never had surgery. That all changed when cancer came into his life.
"It was quite a summer in 2008," says Jim, a retired engineer who lives in Richboro. It started with a severe stomach ache in April 2008. During a trip to the Doylestown Hospital ER, a CT scan of his lower left abdomen showed a couple of spots that couldn't be identified. Jim's primary doctor, Bohdan Martynec, MD, recommended a biopsy of the growth. About a week later, the doctor called to tell Jim it was cancer, probably lymphoma. It came as a surprise. He had no symptoms other than the stomach ache and night sweats.
Jim met with Howard Zipin, MD, an oncologist with The Cancer Institute of Doylestown Hospital. The diagnosis was Non-Hodgkin large B-cell lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a blood cancer that starts in cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body's immune system. Dr. Zipin recommended chemotherapy.
Jim sought a second opinion at a large cancer center in Philadelphia. The recommendation was the same. Doylestown Hospital was "much easier" for Jim to navigate, so he chose to stay with his community hospital. Interventional radiologist Scott Price, MD, placed a port to receive chemotherapy. Jim came to The Cancer Institute of Doylestown Hospital for chemotherapy every 21 days for 6 months. After three treatments, the two small growths that showed up on the original scan disappeared. "That was encouraging," Jim says. His cancer was caught early, increasing his chances for a better outcome.
The chemotherapy treatments took their toll. "It got harder each time," says Jim, but he was very pleased with the care he received. "The staff and nurses were excellent," he says. "I was making progress and the care was good." Jim got to know other people undergoing treatment, and he befriended several nurses and Phillies fans with whom he'd talk baseball. Being cared for at a community hospital helped. "Doylestown Hospital is absolutely a unique hospital," he notes.
With his treatments finished, Jim got back to the business of living life. "Cancer is something that scares the hell out of you when you know you have it," he says. "When you get to a place of conquering cancer -there's still no 100% proof you won't get it again - when you're in remission, you have to live your life. Go ahead and live."
Jim walked his daughter, Julie, down the aisle last summer. He and wife, Nancy, a former nurse at Doylestown Hospital, also have two sons and seven grandchildren. They recently became great-grandparents.
More than three years after the ordeal began, Jim met with Dr. Zipin, who was pleased with his CT/PET scan and blood work. He said it was time to take the port out. "It was a nice feeling," says Jim. His experience has helped him appreciate life more, he adds. "Today, I'll take my health over all the rest of the things."
Jim decided his experience could help others dealing with cancer. He became a volunteer at The Cancer Institute. Once a week he helps out, but his most important job is letting people know they can go from being a patient to a survivor.
"If you can make somebody's day a little better, or make someone feel a little better, that is nice," says Jim. "It gives people hope. That's what I want to do. You've got to have hope."