Anne de Bari


December 7, 1941 was labeled by Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a “Day of Infamy” after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  For my wife, Anne, and me the date was April 13, 2009 when we heard from our family doctor that Anne had metastatic colon cancer.  The most unbelievable thing to us was that she had had no symptoms at all–no bowel changes, no bleeding, pain or weight loss.  What she did have was a “bump” in her upper abdomen which felt like a lipoma (small fatty tumor).  She noted it when we were away for a weekend with some friends. 

On the Monday we returned, she called our family doctor, who thought she may have a gallbladder problem.  He ordered an abdominal ultrasound which was done 3 days later.  This showed that she had several masses in her liver.  Since she was so asymptomatic, and they were so big, it was hard to imagine they were “bad” but an abdominal CT scan performed the next day (and reported to him on April 13th) showed our worst fears: colon cancer that involved lymph nodes and had metastasized to the liver. 

Our family doc, who is a friend and also goes to our church, immediately scheduled a colonoscopy, and a metastatic workup which included a CT scan of her lungs, brain, and a bone scan. He also called an oncologist here in Saginaw, another friend (I’m an orthopaedic surgeon, so I know most of the doctors in town), who insisted we go to the Mayo Clinic without doing anything here other than the scans.  Of course I knew about the Mayo Clinic, but other than referring the occasional patient here over the years, had never been to it.

Our doctors at home set up the appointments for us.  We had our first appointment on April 20th with Sheila Buehler, a nurse practitioner, in the department of Gastroenterology, who took a lengthy history, performed a physical exam, and then laid out the upcoming schedule for us.  After Anne had some blood work performed, we met with Dr. Ahlquist in the department of Gastroenterology, who reviewed everything and also went over everything with us.  We met with our oncologist Dr. Banck, and with surgeon Dr. Levine as well.  Anne underwent several tests and procedures before starting chemotherapy on April 27th–only 2 weeks after her diagnosis.

Our experience at Mayo Clinic was nothing short of fantastic.  We were always treated with respect and compassion.  Everyone we had contact with was friendly and helpful.  They worked very hard to get our appointments scheduled as close as possible to get things done efficiently.

There were 2 things that I think were outstanding.  The first is the culture of the organization, which is pervasive throughout, that the concerns of the patient come first.  There is no question about it, but everyone treats you this way, from the nurses to the doctors, the delivery people to the secretaries.  We were comforted at all levels, and made to feel special. Everyone is friendly. For us, with this type of diagnosis, it was very welcome and comforting.  It is hard to pick out specific people because everyone was so wonderful, but the oncology nurses in particular were spectacular.

A second thing that stood out was the amount of patient education available–and it’s everywhere, even in the chapel at St. Marys Hospital!  There is a wonderful Cancer Library in the Gonda building that has a ton of patient info as well as medical texts.  The “librarian” offered to obtain articles or copies of anything we wanted. We also attended two talks given by staff–one on chemotherapy and a second on nutrition for cancer patients.  They were both very informative–and more handouts were given.  We wound up with a shopping bag full of material to refer to.  In addition to all of this, the nurses and doctors made sure we understood everything we were told, and we were given copies of a lot of our reports and results to bring home with us for our local physicians.

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, that we were thoroughly impressed with our experience at the Mayo Clinic.  Several of the things we experienced I plan on initiating here in Saginaw.  If and when Anne needs surgery, we plan on returning to the Mayo Clinic, even though the physicians here are of good quality and also my friends.  I just really get the impression that the Mayo physicians are the best–and nothing less than that is good enough for my wife.

Editor’s note: Dr. de Bari is chronicling his family’s journey in their Our Faith Journey blog.

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7 Responses to “Anne de Bari”

  1. The Importance of Being Nimble (Part 2) « Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Says:

    […] Anne and Tony de Bari are from Michigan. He’s an orthopedic surgeon, and she had just been diagnosed with metastatic liver cancer. I interviewed them the same morning I met Ted and Sheila Robb. […]

  2. Makala Johnson Says:

    I would recommend checking out the following Mayo Clinic website on colon cancer:

    From there, you can see everything from treatment to how to request an appointment.

  3. Greg Linn Says:

    I wanted to get some feedback on what options I may have available for myself. 1 year ago I was diagnosed with Rectal Cancer. It was thought to be stage 3. I had chemo pills and Radiation. I then had the tumor removed along with 28 Lymphnodes. 2 were found to have cancer closest to the tumor. I went through Chemo until early November and through the treatments had a normal CEA. I went back for a 2 month checkup in late January and my CEA level was elevated. A CT Scan showed a new tumor forming near my tail/pelvic bone and a questionable mark in my lung. They did a biopsy of the tail bone tumor..not in bone and said the tumor, if a tumor in the lung, was too small to do a biopsy at this point. I am awaiting the results of the biopsy and am hopeful but not optimistic. What options might I have???

    • Lee Aase Says:

      Recurrent rectal cancer especially this close to primary therapy needs
      to be quickly and aggressively evaluated and treated. There are more
      advanced medical therapies including the use of biologic agents which
      are extremely effective. We have a very large experience with the
      management of recurrent rectal cancer with a focus on a multi-
      disciplinary integrated approach. I would recommend an appointment in
      our GI medical oncology group as the best starting point for this
      complex problem.

  4. peter, sue sulfridge Says:

    Hi Anne and Tony and Family,
    Peter and I have been following your recent experience.
    We think of you often and continue to pray for all.
    best wishes Peter and Sue

  5. Heather Says:

    I, too, am glad that you had such a successful journey with the whole Mayo system. My mother has been going there since 1985 and I can’t count the number of times she’s been at St. Mary’s. But I do know that if it wasn’t for them she wouldn’t be with us today. I’m the first one to say they aren’t perfect, they can and do make mistakes but I feel more confident in their mistakes than any other medical facitlities successes. If my mother’s doc would have only sent her there a year sooner the last 25 years would have been so different but he didnt and now Mayo has been trying to correct his mistakes ever since. I owe them everything, and you’re right, from the escorts to the top surgeons they all make you feel at home and that they listen to you. Occassionally you’ll get a doc that don’t but in the 25 years my mother’s been going there she’s only had a couple of docs that didn’t really want to hear your opinion. And what can I say about the nursing staff? We go there every 3 weeks for a checkup and unfortunately my mother has been admitted alot and there is a couple of floors (one of the being ICU) where all the nurses and secretaries know us by name and sight. Every couple of months I take them some of my homemade snack mix, it seems so small compared to what they have given me and my family. We haven’t, and hopefully never will, had to deal with oncology but she’s dealt with just about every other department since 1985 and I just can’t say enough good about the whole Mayo system. Thank you.

  6. Barbara C Says:

    Toni and Anne, I am glad that you have had such a terrific experience at the Mayo Clinic. It is where my sister-in-law is receiving her care too. She has non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and is doing well, under the guidance and treatment at the Mayo Clinic.

    You two are in my prayers and thoughts. I am sharing this info. with Don and Gail Kelley, who do not have a computer. They send their prayers too. They are back from Florida and we had lunch together after church this past Sunday.

    Love and Prayers, Barbara Cavin

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