Not Today, Cancer: Care Team Collaboration Saves Lives

“The team at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center worked to save my life.”

Ernest Brooks

During the course of his treatments at the Cancer Center for stage III non-small cell carcinoma, Ernest Brooks said he could feel his body getting progressively better. When he rang the bell after his final radiation treatment in January 2023, Dr. Konstantin “Kos” Kovtun, M.D., radiation oncologist, told Ernest only scar tissue remained in the area where cancer once was.

Some may say it was fate that led Ernest to the Cancer Center and his survivorship.

When Ernest’s initial medical team diagnosed him with lung cancer in 2022 at another cancer care organization, he did not have any physical symptoms. He was running his own business and working long hours. His follow up appointments were scheduled few and far between, without any plan for treatment.

Over the next few months, Ernest’s cancer continued to worsen. He began coughing up blood and was in so much physical pain, he could not sleep through the night. He had to stop working due to his illness.

His son encouraged him to find another care team, agreeing to help Ernest travel anywhere in the country where his condition would be promptly addressed. By coincidence, the next day Ernest heard about Mary Bird Perkins on the radio and asked his wife to reach out for an appointment.

That was Monday. On Thursday, Ernest spoke with Dr. Kovtun. By the following Tuesday, Dr. Kovtun had collaborated with Dr. Victor T.G. Lin, M.D., Ph.D., medical director, clinical research and genetics, Mary Bird Perkins, for a plan of action with treatments beginning the following week.

“My first visit with Dr. Kovtun was encouraging. He reinvigorated my feelings about life and survival,” Ernest says. “He specifically told me they didn’t want to just make me feel better, they thought I was a prime candidate for a cure.”

The plan put together by Dr. Kovtun and Dr. Lin was aggressive. Ernest received 33 radiation therapy treatments over the next two months and four chemotherapy treatments. He also worked with Dr. Andre Bonnecaze, M.D., palliative care director, Mary Bird Perkins, for pain management. After the first week and a half of treatments, Ernest was able to sleep comfortably again.

Supportive and Palliative Care

Learn more about how our Supportive and Palliative Care program helps patients attain the highest quality of life.

“Everything happened just like they said it would,” Ernest says. “I hadn’t slept in a month and a half because of the pain. A week and a half after starting treatment, I was able to lay down in my own bed and sleep through the night, just like they told me.”

Ernest continued to improve beyond his expectations. His care team worked together closely and communicated regularly to ensure his treatments were progressing as planned, and he credits the team at Mary Bird Perkins for saving his life.

“I have a new lease on life,” he says. “I’m so grateful for the way they worked together, not just my doctors but the whole team. The entire system worked phenomenally. Everyone at Mary Bird Perkins has a genuine concern for the patients and helping individuals get better.”

Ernest overwhelmingly recommends the Cancer Center to anyone who needs it. He remembers his father’s cancer battle and treatments at another well-known cancer center and says his experience at Mary Bird Perkins this past year was above and beyond the standard of care he recognized.

“If you can get the right service, you can get the help,” he says. “Life can be sustained.”

Ernest now receives immunotherapy treatments to help boost his immune system to fight against the cancer returning. He has since returned to work, but says he plans to cut down on his hours in the office and spend more time visiting his children, appreciating his new view on life as a survivor.