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Facing Lymphoma with Help from RCCA’s Jumana Chatiwala, MD, and Team: Newton Resident Arthur Fernicola Shares His Story

When the doctor’s office you enjoy visiting most is the clinic where you received chemotherapy, somebody there is doing something right.

Actually, says Arthur Fernicola, the Sparta, NJ, office of Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) is his preferred medical destination because everyone there is doing a lot of things right.

“The staff is terrific, and Dr. Chatiwala is my favorite doctor to go to,” the Newton, NJ resident says of the nurses, technicians, and administrative team at the Sparta RCCA office and of his medical oncologist, Jumana S. Chatiwala, MD.

Mr. Fernicola met Dr. Chatiwala in early 2021. He had undergone magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to evaluate back pain and the radiologist found compression fractures of the lumbar vertebrae. The fractures, the radiologist concluded, represented “damage consistent with metastatic disease.” The MRI with tell-tale signs of cancer followed many months of other troubling medical issues without clear causes, including significantly elevated liver enzymes and pleural effusions – fluid accumulations around the lungs – that one physician initially thought signified lung cancer.

Dr. Jumana Chatiwala, board-certified medical oncologist, practicing with RCCA in Sparta, N.J.

In actuality, Mr. Fernicola had lymphoma, a cancer that begins in the cells of the lymph system. Dr. Chatiwala diagnosed the disease based on the results of a computed tomography (CT) scan she ordered as soon as he came into her care. “I was riddled with it,” Mr. Fernicola says of the cancer, noting that when he was diagnosed in February 2021, the lymphoma had metastasized to his bones and liver. Without prompt treatment, the retired computer programmer adds, he would have had only a few months to live.

After assessing his condition and talking with Mr. Fernicola about his treatment options, Dr. Chatiwala implemented a comprehensive regimen that included chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Because his lymphoma had metastasized, Mr. Fernicola required a particularly potent form of chemotherapy, but he says, “I was lucky. I tolerated it pretty well. There were some side effects, but nothing I couldn’t handle.” He adds that the caring attitude of the RCCA office’s staff also went far toward making the experience tolerable. “Everyone there is really nice, and concerned with your comfort and well-being,” he says.

Today, more than a year later, “I’m in complete remission right now, so I’m happy,” the Newton resident says. He adds, “I know I’m living on borrowed time, but I’m determined to make the most of it. Everyone says you’ve got to stay positive when you’re facing cancer. That has never been a problem for me.”

He has follow-up imaging studies every 3 to 4 months and continues to see Dr. Chatiwala on a regular basis. “She’s really good about looking at the entire picture and providing comprehensive care,” he notes, adding that the oncologist found that he had osteoporosis and arranged for him to receive a bone health agent. Other minor health problems that he experiences “bother her more than they bother me,” he jokes, explaining that Dr. Chatiwala is very focused on ensuring that he and her other patients enjoy the best possible quality of life.

Dr. Chatiwala says she looks forward to her periodic visits with Mr. Fernicola as much as he does. “While our job as healthcare professionals is to attend to our patients’ needs, and to lift their spirits however we can as they go through treatment, he actually makes all of our days brighter by his good nature and consideration. Arthur is testament to the power of a positive attitude, and to the fact that even with fairly advanced cancer, there is much that can be done, and always cause for hope,” the physician says.

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Jumana S. Chatiwala, MD, is board-certified in internal medicine, medical oncology, and hematology. She has treated patients in Sussex County and surrounding communities for more than 7 years. After earning her medical degree in India, she completed her internal medicine residency and oncology/hematology fellowship at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson. She then joined RCCA, one of the nation’s largest networks of cancer specialists. She is a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Society of Hematology, and the American Medical Association.

Dr. Chatiwala is among the 90+ cancer specialists who treat patients at 25 RCCA care centers located throughout New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, DC, area. RCCA oncologists and hematologists see more than 23,000 new patients each year and provide care to more than 225,000 established patients, collaborating closely with their patients’ other physicians. They offer patients the latest in cutting-edge treatments, including immunotherapies and targeted therapy, as well as access to a wide range of clinical trials. In addition to serving patients who have solid tumors, blood-based cancers, and benign blood disorders such as anemia, RCCA care centers also provide infusion services to people with a number of non-oncologic conditions—including multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis—who take intravenously-administered medications.

To learn more about RCCA, call 844-928-0089 or visit RCCA.com.  

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