Health & Wellness

Head of Radiation Oncology at Overlook, Dr. Schwartz, Joins Ranks of Cancer Survivors

f7b6efe259e93cff0047_2F670217-E54A-4102-86ED-3AF32C467C0F.jpeg
Dr. Schwartz is surrounded by family after his talk. From left, front Zach Rosenberg, Laura Schwartz, Dr. Louis E. Schwartz, Dana Borger, back row, Brittany Rosenberg and Hanna Schwartz. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
4fb8fb7a7e5b0478cf5a_150DB454-19A7-4284-AE4E-3613C76F7C2C.jpeg
Ashok Kumar of New Providence has celebrated 11 birthdays since having been diagnosed with cancer Credits: Barbara Rybolt
08ed3cf3715dc087bb80_D1082DE7-94FE-49A3-B839-E096FCD31387.jpeg
Nicholas Meola of Summit has celebrated nine more birthdays since his diagnosis. Credits: Bobbie Peer
c96aa826983f1bf1bbbc_FE638E67-0D26-4284-BBDA-740323C9C9BE.jpeg
The Simon Center’s Donna Delicio opened the National Cancer Survivor's Day Celebration at Overlook Medical Center. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
4913f1fef12db3832aca_5B4DCEA7-0362-4379-90B3-C256F656C825.jpeg
Ann Marie Bonassisa of Roselle Park listens intently to Dr. Schwartz describe his cancer journey. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
6074cff163878e77e4c6_B131772B-3082-4148-BBFC-18350FE61857.jpeg
Dr. Louis Schwartz, chair of Radiation Oncology at Overlook Medical Center and medical director of the hospital’s CyberKnife Center, speaks to fellow cancer survivors. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
918f19ee1d799c9175d0_34215D8D-8F0B-4CC2-B009-88C942F81467.jpeg
Sally Barmakian of Morristown, was among the cancer survivors who celebrated an extra birthday. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
26de2395429d5e37ff9c_7E490247-0210-4711-96EA-AB8E40517348.jpeg
Frances DiCarlo of Martinsville, has been coming to the survivor celebrations for four years at Overlook Medical Center. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
876f2f3dda577848b4b8_D2175DDE-45EC-4608-B3E5-09A4709613DD.jpeg
Credits: Barbara Rybolt
43b1c0e6f3ad8168ea51_4B960184-9062-40D2-8FF5-AAA4BF7342CC.jpeg
Keynote speaker and AML Leukemia survivor Dr. Louis Schwartz hugs it out at the Reception and Celebration to Honor Cancer Survivorship on June 2, 2018, while Dr. Marc Mandel, right, watches. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
b7692c2364861d80b3c6_722E3041-B3A1-4D73-A5AB-E8E1FD49F566.jpeg
Dr. Schwartz places his card on the birthday timeline. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
afe37db746096995e3d7_A39A9C11-5F77-4654-B617-1AAF06E88AE9.jpeg
Marcia Haller and her friend James Colangelo, both of Cranford, came to the survivor celebration together. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
f7b6efe259e93cff0047_2F670217-E54A-4102-86ED-3AF32C467C0F.jpeg

SUMMIT, NJ –  Ashok Kumar of New Providence has celebrated 11 birthdays since having been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was among the many cancer survivors who gathered at Bouras Auditorium on Saturday, June 2, to celebrate National Cancer Survivor’s Day.

Kumar, who chose radioactive seed implantation to treat his cancer, said, “I’ve been coming to the survivor celebration for 11 years. I had my treatment here. Everything is good – the doctor, the staff. I’m here because of them.”

So, every year, Kumar takes part in this annual tradition at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Medical Center, to mark another birthday and honor the doctors and staff who helped him through his treatment. But, even for Kumar, this year’s party was particularly special.

Sign Up for E-News

This year’s keynote speaker, Louis Schwartz, MD, had waged his own battle against cancer since the last celebration. Dr. Schwartz, who is chair of Radiation Oncology at Overlook Medical Center and medical director of the hospital’s CyberKnife Center, was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). He’s well-known among the many cancer survivors who attend this event and even better known to the hospital staff – some might call him a legend.

Dr. Schwartz told the story of his diagnosis, treatment, a planned three-week hospital stay that became seven weeks, a weakened immune system that led to bacterial meningitis and, eventually, a successful bone marrow transplant. He told it to people who fought similar battles and understood the fear, disappointment, hope, and eventual success he experienced.

Dr. Schwartz said his cancer journey began when he went for his annual physical, which included a routine blood test, and learned his CBC (complete blood count) was abnormal, even though it had been normal a few months earlier. When the test results came in, “Our first reaction was ‘This must be a lab error,’” he said. The crowd laughed knowingly – many of them had been there, thought the same thing and, like Dr. Schwartz, were wrong. His doctor ran the test again and, when the new CBC came back it was the same.  He was immediately referred to a hematologist, who conducted a bone marrow exam, which led to him being diagnosed with AML and referred to Hackensack University Medical Center, which has a bone marrow stem cell transplant program.

He went through several weeks of inpatient chemotherapy at Overlook Medical Center, underwent a repeat bone marrow exam to check the effectiveness of the chemotherapy and learned there were still leukemia cells in his bone marrow.  Dr. Schwartz underwent another round of chemo and, with his immune system essentially at zero, developed an infection that was diagnosed as bacterial meningitis and was placed on antibiotics.  “Fortunately the choice of antibiotics was correct or I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.  His recovery from bacterial meningitis took its toll on everyone and, “I found out who my real friends were. They visited me on almost a daily basis giving me encouragement,” he said. It took a team of all types of therapists – physical, speech, occupational and “the most wonderful nurses in the world on the third floor to rehabilitate me. It was frustrating for somebody who never asked for help in his life to be dependent,” Dr. Schwartz said.

It took more than two months for Dr. Schwartz to recover from the effects of the meningitis – then it was time to prepare for his bone marrow transplant. None of his relatives were matches, but the International Bone Marrow Registry yielded five donors and Dr. Schwartz’s doctor chose a 30-year-old Israeli to be the donor and the bone marrow was flown from Israel in a first-class seat.

Dr. Schwartz said he received the bone marrow transplant on Thanksgiving Day, and stayed in the hospital, waiting for his blood count to go up.

After three weeks, he was released from the hospital, but was readmitted because he developed kidney failure from the anti-rejection drugs. After his medications were adjusted, his kidneys recovered and he was able to return home. Since then he said he has undergone two bone marrow exams which indicate he is in full remission.

Applause rang throughout the room at that news.

Dr. Schwartz went back to work on March 4, part time for a few weeks and then full time.  “I am functioning as the normal Dr. Schwartz who has worked and dedicated himself to Overlook for the past 38 years,” he told the audience.

He thanked the administrators of Overlook Medical Center, nurses, doctors, his associate Joana Emmolo, MD, his friends, family and his wife, Laura, who was his advocate, and supporter throughout his ordeals.

“I’m here, you’re all here. Everything is behind us and I just wanted to show you can get rid of this thing, you can survive. I went to the brink and I’m back,” Dr. Schwartz concluded. The applause was loud and lasted a long time.

Not long after he spoke, he joined other survivors as they placed their cards showing how many birthdays they’ve celebrated since being diagnosed with cancer on the Timeline of Life – which this year extended to 30 years.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

New Providence

Seth Meyers Attends Summit Medical Group Foundation's (SMGF) 5th Annual Gala & Auction

June 22, 2018

Seth Meyers, host of NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers, was recently a special guest at Summit Medical Group Foundation's (SMGF) 5th Annual Gala & Auction where a record-breaking $1.35 million was raised. 

SMGF’s Annual Gala & Auction raises critical funds to ensure the Foundation can continue to offer access to high-quality ...

What Is HIIT and Why All The Buzz?

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. Many people, especially those with busy schedules, love HITT because they can get maximum benefits in a short period of time! According to Shape Magazine, “Research shows you can achieve more progress in a mere 15 minutes of interval training (done three times a week) than the girl jogging on the treadmill for an hour. And according to ...

Register Today for Summer Youth Courses Offered at Union County College

CRANFORD – This summer the Office of Continuing Education at Union County College is expanding its course offerings for youth ages 11-18. Classes are taught by NJ-certified teachers and subject matter experts that specialize in delivering high-quality youth programs. Classes begin the week of June 25 and run through August 23.

Classes offered include Introduction to Musical Theater, ...

Watchung Borough Mayor and Council Approve Affordable Housing Settlement

June 9, 2018

WATCHUNG, NJ -The Watchung Borough Council voted on Thursday night  to settle its third round affordable housing obligation mandated by the state of New Jersey. Watchung Borough’s immunity from builder's remedy lawsuits  expires on June 30.

 Mayor Stephen Pote was forced to cast the deciding vote after the council deadlocked at 3-3.

Video: Union County Celebrates Pride Month with CommUNITY PRIDE Day Picnic

June 19, 2018

RAHWAY, NJ - Parents, children, friends, and all family members came out on Saturday afternoon to Rahway River Park for the Union County CommUNITY PRIDE Day Picnic.

The family-friendly celebration hosted by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, was a day of fun activities of arts and crafts, family lawn games, inflatable bounce houses, playground fun and more, along with music by the ...

Madison Resident Awarded Children's 'Book of The Year' for Second Time

June 21, 2018

MADISON, NJ - Madison resident and author, Trish Lisa Wilson, is the recipient of Creative Child’s Magazine’s 2018 Book of the Year Award, a repeat honor. Wilson’s work, A Penny For Piggy: A Tale of Save, Spend, Share was also honored by the publication in 2014. The book was reviewed by parents and educators and received the highest accolade in two categories, specifically, ...

New Providence High School Celebrates 59th Annual Commencement Ceremony

June 22, 2018

Before hundreds of friends and family members at Lieder Field, the class of 2018, after four long years, officially graduated from New Providence High School on Thursday evening.

The program began with the band performing “Pomp & Circumstance” as the soon-to-be graduates walked side-by-side on the Lieder Field turf.

After they were seated, senior class president Riley Kinum ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_946d04346cba30ae4cb8_st._huberts_3

Fri, June 22, 7:00 AM

Summit YMCA, Summit

Pet Supply Drive at the Summit YMCA to Benefit ...

Giving Back

Carousel_image_e7f53aa67b8e7cb310c5_vinyasaclass

Fri, June 22, 6:30 PM

Providence Health & Fitness, New Providence

Vinyasa Flow Yoga

Carousel_image_946d04346cba30ae4cb8_st._huberts_3

Sat, June 23, 7:00 AM

Summit YMCA, Summit

Pet Supply Drive at the Summit YMCA to Benefit ...

Giving Back

Carousel_image_946d04346cba30ae4cb8_st._huberts_3

Sun, June 24, 7:00 AM

Summit YMCA, Summit

Pet Supply Drive at the Summit YMCA to Benefit ...

Giving Back

Carousel_image_0906ca383804ad4ba17c_tai-chi

Sun, June 24, 9:30 AM

Providence Health and Fitness, New Providence

Tai Chi Chuan

Health & Wellness

What's Hot and What's Not

Summer is a great time to take a step back, sip a cool beverage, and take a look at what’s going on in the world of college admissions.  Departments use the summer to evaluate how their year went and plan on any changes they want to make for the fall.  Did they over-enroll? Under-enroll?  What application materials were useful to them?  Which were redundant or time ...