Treating 'The Whole Person'

It was summer of 2019 and Joyce Casertino, 62 of Wilton, was enjoying her first few months of retirement. She spent her days traveling and spending time with family and friends.
“My husband said to me mid-July ‘I am so enjoying your retirement’!” said Casertino. “We were having a great time together.”

But a checkup with her primary care doctor in August caused a major change in their plans. Casertino thought she had a urinary tract infection. But during the exam, the doctor found a mass.

“The doctor told me ‘we’re referring you to Albany Medical Center’,” said Casertino. “I couldn’t even wrap my head around what was happening at that point.”

Casertino said the next three weeks, waiting for her appointment, felt like a lifetime. The unknown scared her, but she kept praying the mass was benign.

Casertino saw Gynecologic Oncologist Daniel Kredentser, MD, who has since retired from Albany Medical Center. In September 2019, after a biopsy and MRI, Casertino was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.“I try so hard to think in the most positive way. I’m not one to think negatively.” said Casertino. “But from there, everything happened so quickly. There’s not a lot of time to think!”

Casertino soon began treatment, which spanned across what would later become the Albany Med Health System. She met with Saratoga Hospital Medical Group Oncologist Xiao Su, MD, in Malta close to home, and began chemotherapy. In January 2020 she had a laparoscopic hysterectomy and had frequent checkups at Albany Medical Center. But Casertino’s cancer spread, and she continued treatment over the past three years.

In early 2022, Dr. Kredentser retired and Casertino met her new gynecologic oncologist, Benjamin Margolis, MD.

“Dr. Margolis said to me ‘we don’t treat just your cancer, we treat the whole package. How you feel and what you need is part of the treatment process.’” said Casertino, recalling a time Dr. Margolis worked her treatment schedule around a much-needed vacation to visit family in Florida. “That meant the world to me!”

“It’s common in cancer treatment to accommodate a patient’s physical and emotional needs, including sometimes taking a break from chemotherapy.” said Dr. Margolis. “A patient might not always fit into the neatly published guidelines, and that is both challenging and rewarding to individualize care to each patient.”

Besides Albany Medical Center, Dr. Margolis sees patients at 381 Church St. in Saratoga Springs, which means Casertino can continue her care close to home.

She says her phenomenal care team, loving support system, and fellow cancer warriors give her strength and motivation to keep fighting. Even with a recent scan that showed the cancer spread slightly further, Casertino is staying positive.

“It’s just a new battle in the war I’m going to win!”