Bill Busch was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma at the beginning of 2016.  In his own words, he documents his treatment journey at UMGCCC, and how the team helped him get through one of the most difficult times of his life.

The Beginning

In January of 2016, I went to the ER for an unrelated issue, and at the time, the doctor ordered a CT scan of my chest. After a review, the doctor said that I should follow up with my primary care provider (PCP) due to a pleural effusion (fluid in the lungs) that was noted on the scan. 

My PCP then said I needed to see a thoracic specialist as soon as possible. Within seven days of seeing Dr. Neri Cohen at GBMC, I was in surgery for the pleural effusion and biopsies of the lung and pleural tissue. At my postoperative visit, I was told I have malignant mesothelioma and, at that time, would have about 12 months to live – a very grim diagnosis. He spoke very highly of UMGCCC's Dr. Joseph Friedberg, with whom I made an appointment to review my options.

Arrival at UMGCCC

Bill with his son, Colin, and wife, Kathleen

Bill with his son, Colin, and wife, Kathleen

Dr. Cohen said UMGCCC was the only place in Maryland able to perform the surgery for mesothelioma.

At my first consultation with Dr. Friedberg, he explained to me that I was not a candidate for surgery to remove the tumor because the biopsies from Dr. Cohen showed I had biphasic malignant mesothelioma. Dr. Friedberg also told me that he would like to have UMMC/UMGCCC review the biopsies. He then introduced me to another doctor to discuss chemotherapy treatment to try to shrink the tumor. The tumor did shrink after four rounds of chemotherapy.

Dr. Friedberg told me at my post-chemotherapy follow-up that further review of the biopsies by the UMMC pathologist indicated the cancer was epithelioid rather than biphasic. This made me a candidate for surgery. Dr. Friedberg said he could give me years rather than months. And so, a couple of weeks later, I was in surgery.  

Five-Star Care

From the original consultation with Dr. Friedberg, through chemo, to the subsequent surgery with Dr. Friedberg and my two additional stays at the hospital due to infection after the surgery, each doctor, physician assistant, nurse and tech were caring, patient, understanding and professional in their care of me and my family and in their explanation of my treatment. I would like to give special recognition to Colleen Norton, Mesothelioma Nurse Navigator, during my time in the hospital and my recovery at home. She was always there for me, bringing me a special snack or book or just to pop in to say hello to let me know she was there for me and my family.

Without a doubt I felt like I was in good hands. I would not have survived without their support and personal care. With my surgery, I was hospitalized for 13 days. I then had 31 additional days in the hospital due to infections.

The staff provided amazing service not only by taking care of me, but their patience and professionalism toward my wife and son was outstanding.

Getting Back to “Normal”

When I first came home after my final release, it took some time to build up my energy level since I experienced infections after surgery and a longer than normal hospital stay. Since October 5, I am at about 80 percent of what or how I was prior to going through an eight-month ordeal. And my first post-op consultation with Dr. Friedberg showed his personal side. He was very excited to share with me and my wife how great I am doing.  

I have terminal cancer and through the efforts of the UMMC/UMGCCC staff, I have many healthy and productive years ahead of me instead of the 12 months I was given at my initial diagnosis. I am looking forward to living life fully.

Due to the personnel and professional care given me during my stay and the understanding, gentle care extended to my family, I wouldn’t hesitate to share my experience at UMGCCC with my family and friends.


To make an appointment with a Dr. Friedberg or one of UMGCCC's other thoracic surgeons, please call 410-328-6366.

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