Residents get meet, greet with cancer-surviving doc

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 15, 2014

The topic of conversation was heavy, but the mood was somehow light Wednesday morning at 21st Century Oncology, where a handful of community members gathered to discuss cancer treatments with Dr. Hejal Patel.

Patel, a cancer survivor who lost his right arm to a tumor in his teens, said that experience set him on a path to help patients battling the disease.

“Unlike most medical students, I really knew what I wanted to do,” Patel said. “It absolutely affected me.”

Wednesday morning, Patel was hard at work, chatting individually with many of those in attendance, before giving the group an overview of what the Andalusia facility offers.

“We have the same treatments here that you would get in a bigger city,” Patel said. “When you’re doing radiation, it’s an everyday thing and it’s nice to not have to drive three or four hours.”

Patel, who is based in Dothan and visits Andalusia on Wednesdays, said a new van outreach program is also making things easier on cancer patients in Covington County.

“If you qualify financially, it’s a great resource,” Patel said. “I’m not sure exactly how far it will go, but it is meant to go and pick up patients and transport them here and back. It’s great for those people who truly need financial help.”

But Patel said the most important message he can give the community concerning cancer is simply to use local resources.

“Come see us,” Patel said. “Come in here and talk tome. You only get one shot at cancer, so we want people to take the right steps”

Lawton Armstrong, regional administrator for 21st Century’s Alabama market also said the first step is simply coming in for an initial visit.

“Dr. Patel is great with patients, and he knows the feeling of that moment when he tells a patient there is a cancer diagnosis,” Armstrong said. “He’s very personable and takes time with the patients. I’ve seen him spend thirty minutes with patients on a day when he has a full patient load.”

Both Patel and Armstrong said they plan to schedule more question and answer sessions in the future, adding that anyone with any questions can call 334.493.8272 or visit the Andalusia location on Medical Park Dr. in front of Andalusia Regional Hospital to set up an appointment.