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My husband, Wilbur, had a complicated year. From heart failure to a diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma his treatment was tricky at best. Before leaving Barnes-Jewish Hospital after an extended stay, we were assigned Washington University oncologist, Dr. Tanya Wildes. Dr. Wildes' expertise and care were instrumental in giving my husband and I a quality year together before he passed away three months ago. Something she said made such an impression on me that I framed it for her. With sincere compassion, she looked Wilbur right in the eyes and said, "It is not my job to keep you from dying. It is my job to help you live." And so she did.
Dr. Wildes was careful to listen to Wilbur and to understand how he wanted to fight his own battle. Each treatment decision was made with careful consideration of his tolerance, the risks involved especially in light of his heart condition, and the most personalized compassion that I have ever experienced from a medical specialist.
Through an online health portal, I was able to track Wilbur's lab results and cancer markers and had a clear picture of how his treatment was affecting his body and his illness. If at any time we had questions or concerns, we called Dr. Wildes' nurse manager, Tamara Coyne. She was always prompt to call us back and guide us through scary times.
The staff at Siteman Cancer Clinic (South County) became a second family to us during our year long fight. We chose to drive from Poplar Bluff, MO every week for treatment - a four hour round trip - and it was worth the drive. From the receptionists to the volunteers and medical staff we were treated with respect and compassion. I have even returned to visit with them on occasion since Wilbur's passing, and I actually miss them.
Dr. Wildes never lost hope, nor led us to lose hope while treating this cancer. She did not recommend a path focused on the cancer, but one that focused on the patient. For instance, his heart condition made a stem cell transplant too risky. His course of drug treatments included multiple drugs. At each turn, changes were made thoughtfully and carefully with close supervision. It was always obvious that she was well informed of all the new breakthroughs and treatment choices for Multiple Myeloma.
When Wilbur's markers began to climb and he was no longer responding, Dr. Wildes talked at length with Wilbur about how he wanted to treat the cancer; they could hit it with another drug that would probably ravage his body, or allow him to be at home with his family. He chose to be home. With tears in her eyes Dr. Wildes stayed and talked with Wilbur until she was sure she was following his wishes.
Thank you Dr. Wildes, Tamara Coyne, and Siteman South staff for giving me the gift of a year. In that time we prayed together, vacationed together, met a new great-granddaughter, and loved well.