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Brain tumor center opens in Long Branch

Posted on: 12/03/2007

Brain tumor center opens in Long Branch

 Brain tumor center opens in Long Branch
By Carol Gorga Williams • COASTAL MONMOUTH BUREAU • October 18, 2007

LONG BRANCH — One by one, they came and testified, their voices cracking. They held back tears … sometimes unsuccessfully … as they spoke about their fathers and mothers, husbands, partners, sons and friends, now all gone.

They talked about loss, and overcoming loss. They spoke about the impact brain tumors have had on their families, and the help they received from Dr. Sumul N. Raval, neuro-oncologist and medical director of the David S. Zocchi Brain Tumor
Center at Monmouth Medical Center. The center had its formal ribbon cutting Wednesday, the culmination of years of wishing and dreaming on the part of the physician.

It didn't take this form, though, until Raval telephoned a grieving Judy Zocchi and talked her into coming on board. Zocchi had, weeks before, lost her husband of more than 20 years to brain cancer.

Zocchi wanted to create something alive and vibrant to celebrate her husband's life, to honor his journey and to help others making the same horrible trip. She had met so many other people during the nearly six years Zocchi dealt with his
tumor. She knew well their confusion and panic as they tried to research the best treatments for their loved ones and tried to locate the most learned and compassionate physicians to guide them.

Shortly before dusk Wednesday, standing on the lawn at the Long Branch-based hospital, Zocchi lit a candle for her husband. Then she asked others with whom she is linked by disease and hope and perseverance to do the same.

"It is about our love and our loss that we've all shared," said Zocchi, of Manasquan, as those assembled released doves to remember family members. "I didn't want to do it alone. I need you guys."

"I want this to be personal, about the people we lost," Zocchi said. "My husband, David, loved deeply. He lived his life with integrity, and he died with grace."

Cheryl Questore came with her daughter, Olivia, 14, and son Aidan, 7, to celebrate the life of husband and father Joseph G. Questore, who ran for Eatontown Borough Council twice after his diagnosis and two brain surgeries, winning election both times.

"He was not going to give in," said Mrs. Questore, who was married for nearly 9 years. "Dr. Raval said, "This is not a death sentence: we're going to have quality of life,' and we did a lot in those 18 months," including inspiring a town to come together.

"He always said Eatontown was his Mayberry because we were from the city," she said. "I doubted that until this happened," she said, calling the center "the first bright light most of us had."

Peter Farnsworth, a lawyer from Point Pleasant, considers himself one of the center's success stories. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in August 2006, and was treated in another local hospital and in New York City before finding Raval. Although he is undergoing chemotherapy now, there has been no sign of the tumor for four months.

"Sometimes I have bad days, and other times it is perfect," he said of the side-effects from the treatment.

The 810-foot center contains a physician's office, group meeting room, research library and staff facilities. The second phase of the center will offer a chemotherapy room especially for brain tumor patients, among other services.

"Things like this just don't happen without a lot of dedication and passion,"
said Frank J. Vozos, executive director of the hospital, crediting Zocchi's ability to motivate people.

"You don't want to be in her way when she needs to get something done," he said.

The center offers the services of a social worker, Wendy Berk, who also lost her husband to brain cancer, to help people navigate the various minefields between programs and insurance companies. Berk's husband was 31 when he died in June 2001, after six years of marriage and one daughter, then 2.

"It was just devastating," she said of his illness and death. "Together, we'll make a difference."

Ravel reported Wednesday night that it has the best chemotherapy response rate of any center in the nation, including those that are world-renowned. It soon will be the setting of a major clinical trial, he said.

David S. Zocchi Brain Tumor Center. The center also may be reached by calling (877)577-9800.

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