Turning the Page on a Cancer Diagnosis

“I really didn’t have any symptoms to speak of, which was a surprise,” says Dr. Frank Rugani, who was diagnosed in January of 2014 with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

A retired dentist and Copper Country native, Frank is as active a 75-year-old as can be imagined. He practiced dentistry downstate for 42 years before he retired back to the Upper Peninsula in 2006 with his wife, Nancy. Since then, Frank and Nancy have authored four books on various Copper Country history subjects.

Despite having a history of heart issues (bypass surgery and pacemaker), Frank was relatively healthy. It was during routine health testing that his family physician, UP Health System Portage’s Dr. William Anderson, Sr., suspected an abnormality in Frank’s blood work.

“I had no better medical care in all my years, both in Saginaw and Traverse City, than when I came under the care of Dr. Anderson,” says Frank, adding, “The day Dr. Anderson got the lab results I was called in and I met with (oncologist) Dr. Lloyd Geddes for the first time.”

The lab result concluded Frank had CLL.

According to Dr. Geddes, “CLL is cancer in certain white blood cells. Many people with CCL will not have symptoms for years, but in time the cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body, such as lymph nodes and bone marrow.

Frank explains that he was given three options by Dr. Anderson and Dr. Geddes.

“I was told I could seek no treatment and continue to follow ongoing lab studies. Or, I could begin treatment under Dr. Geddes supervision, which he recommended. Or, I could be referred for a second opinion.  My decision, because my wife and I had confidence in Dr. Geddes and Dr. Anderson, was to begin treatment with Dr. Geddes.”

Dr. Anderson has been a Copper Country medical community leader for several decades. Dr. Geddes is the primary cancer specialist for UPHS-Portage, and closely linked to the UPHS-Cancer center headquartered at UP Health System – Marquette.

Thus Frank began his chemotherapy journey. In all, he had four chemotherapy treatments.

“I was 73 years old and the sickest I was in my life was after my first chemo treatment,” he recalls. But he is more than pleased with the treatment he received and has a special place in his heart for the UPHS – Portage nursing staff that helped guide him through his treatment.

“The oncology staff at Portage has delivered the most caring treatment I have received in my entire life.  The nurses and PA who treated me in the Oncology Department are exceptional. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”

He was especially moved by RN Linda Kesti, who he recalls, “I said a prayer with her and I was absolutely in tears when she finished. And from that day forward it was onward and upward for me. And as far as I’m concerned, Dr. Geddes is 10 feet tall.”

That was summer, 2014. Frank’s chemotherapy treatment was successful. He says that his most recent blood work “was the best in three years.”

So, Frank was feeling strong enough in late November to drive with Nancy to their winter residence in Apache Junction, Ariz. His confidence is bolstered by having access to the UP Health System Patient Portal, which allows him direct access, via the Internet, to his Copper Country physicians.

“The Patient Portal is pretty comforting for someone going so far away,” he points out.

And when he returns this to the Copper Country this spring, Frank and Nancy will once again immerse themselves in their latest book project.

Learn more about Cancer Care at UP Health System here, or call (906) 449-3900.