In His Own Words

Cancer Patient Considers FHN's Care 'The Gold Standard'


Treatment sessions at FHN's Cancer Center were "comfortable and homelike," according to patient Tom Rutkowski. "And the nursing staff was not only very proficient, but also friendly and caring."

Navy veteran, retired businessman, and self-proclaimed "car nut" Tom Rutkowski was enjoying retirement with his wife at Lake Carroll, until one day he noticed lumps under both arms. He was feeling well and had no symptoms, but thought a quick check from Dr. David Reese at FHN Family Healthcare Center – Lanark, was wise, "just to make sure." "Dr. Reese suggested I get a biopsy of my lymph nodes," Tom explains, "and the samples were sent off to Mayo Clinic." Within a short time, Tom received a deflating diagnosis: Cancer. It was caught early because of his quick action, though, and his prognosis was promising.

Two Types of Cancer

Tom quickly consulted with Arshad Shaikh, MD, Director of Medical Oncology at the FHN Leonard C. Ferguson Cancer Center at FHN Memorial Hospital. Dr. Shaikh explained that Tom had two different variants of aggressive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Fortunately, Dr. Shaikh was able to provide a treatment option that would target both for cure. Tom says, "Dr. Shaikh was very encouraging and imparted a sense of hope. He told me my condition was often manageable, and thoroughly explained what to expect. Soon, I returned for chemotherapy and was greeted by a proficient and friendly nursing staff who made me feel their concern. I could count on them to make my treatment as stress-free as possible. I was welcome to have a visitor with me during treatment, and that support was really appreciated. We were each given comfortable seating – me a recliner and my wife a rocker – in a home-like setting that even has a fireplace! We could pull curtains around us if we desired privacy, and we had our own TV. Dr. Shaikh always made it a point to stop in to check on us at each appointment, making us feel cared for and helping to relieve anxiety."

The chemotherapy was not easy. "It took its toll," Tom says. "I lost weight, lost my hair, and lost my energy, but I never lost hope. The folks at the Cancer Center provided excellent encouragement."

Not All Treatment is Considered Equal

After two rounds of chemotherapy at the Cancer Center in Freeport, Tom and his wife decided to head to their winter home in Florida, where he received continuing care. Treatment there was markedly different, according to Tom. "There was no privacy and it resembled an assembly line - very sterile. No visitors were allowed and the turnover amongst nurses was very high, so you never really got to know anyone. The oncologist never stopped in to see me. I felt like I was a number."

He returned to FHN for his ongoing treatment, and was happy to be back with providers and caregivers who "always uplift my situation." Follow-up scans showed his lymphoma was no longer detectable. Dr. Shaikh placed him on gentler, periodic infusions to keep it under control long term.

Appreciation for Excellent Care

Tom is grateful to receive his care from a team he now knows well and sincerely appreciates. "Everybody at the Ferguson Cancer Center is so polite and caring – their personalized attention is truly top of the line," Tom enthuses. "After many months, Dr. Shaikh still checks in with me during appointments without fail. Whether we remain living in Lake Carroll or move to the western suburbs of Chicago to be closer to our family, I will continue to commute to Freeport for my cancer treatments. I now know FHN is the gold standard."