In 2020 Allen was diagnosed with yet another cancer, this time in his ear canal. In response, a team of doctors at Mount Sinai’s Tisch Cancer Institute—one of the nation’s most respected cancer centers and a partner of NYPC—rallied to his support. They included oncologist Dr. Marshall Posner, otolaryngologist Dr. Marita Teng, neurotologist Dr. Enrique Perez, and radiation oncologist Dr. Richard Bakst, who ultimately treated Allen with proton therapy at NYPC.
“I felt it was the right decision,” Allen said.
From the moment Allen set foot in the lobby of NYPC, he sensed a marked difference from his previous experiences at other healthcare facilities. The atmosphere was warm and inviting. There were affectionate greetings from the receptionists at the front desk, access to drinks and snacks, and an overall sense of comfort and camaraderie.
“The whole initial impression was just amazing,” he said. “The support was everywhere—social workers, nutritional guidance, pain relief. I was very surprised and just thrilled by the level of attention and care.”
In particular, Allen praises Chrissy Rubin, a social worker on staff who also helped coordinate his transportation to and from the center.
“The amount of kindness and support I received from Chrissy was more than I could have imagined. She helped me in so many ways. Plus Laura (Wang), the nutritionist, was also extremely helpful. She understood I’d already had decades of issues with chewing and swallowing, so I was so very happy to get advice from her.” He also speaks fondly of others who were so helpful, including nurses Marlene and Dixie, and radiation “shepherds” (therapists) Jason and Kalmen.
And of course Allen’s treatment had far fewer side effects than his previous photon radiation, since the proton beams were able to target his tumor with exceptional precision while largely sparing healthy tissues and organs. Moreover, each session required him to spend just six or seven minutes laying comfortably on the treatment table, whereas his previous treatments could take up to an hour, during which time he was strapped to a table he says felt like “plywood.”
“I was surprised at how painless, manageable and relaxed the whole thing was,” he says.
“Given his prior radiation and the challenges we face when re-irradiating in the head and neck region, Allen was the ideal candidate for proton beam therapy,” Dr. Bakst said. “He handled the treatment remarkably well and recovered much quicker than anticipated.”