It takes a team to tackle Ralph's angiosarcoma

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Ralph Cousins – Dallas, Texas

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Ralph Cousins' story

One day in the fall of 2012, I woke up with blood on my pillow and found three hard bumps on the crown of my head. I called our family dermatologist, Dr. Alan Menter of Texas Dermatology, and got an appointment right away for my initial biopsy. That evening, I was diagnosed with angiosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer.

I was called back for the skin tumor ‘board.’ Several specialists from Baylor University Medical Center, including oncologists who Alan knew and trusted, met to identify a course of action. I felt the same level of stress and confusion one might feel after a car accident, but there was a wonderful enveloping feeling of tremendous support; it took a huge amount of anxiety away. By the time I got home, there was a plan.

Alan quarterbacked a ‘dream team’ that included dermatopathology, general surgery, radiation oncology, surgical oncology, and plastic surgery to guide my recovery. They all went to great lengths to help me; Alan even called me on Christmas Eve to check in. The team members collectively discussed treatments and never failed to refer to each other as ‘Alan and I…’ when discussing my care. It made me feel that they were really working together, with me as their mutual focus.

Eighteen months later, I went for an unrelated check-up that led to the discovery of a new tumor. Alan and his team again rose to the challenge—helping me recover while managing a new chemotherapy regimen, and helping me grow healthy skin to cover my original wound. I will never forget the empathy and professionalism that Alan and the team showed in planning and coordinating my treatment. Everyone dealing with sickness should receive that sort of care.

The dermatologist's perspective

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Ralph had a very unusual form of malignancy— and a history of severe psoriasis with treatment on a biologic drug that possibly may have played a role in triggering his condition. I immediately called on my colleagues with whom I interact at the Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas to discuss his care, and we worked together to treat him. I truly believe that without the other disciplines, excellent care, Ralph would no longer be with us.

– Alan Menter, MD, Texas Dermatology