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My Aspirus Story

Cancer care at Aspirus eases burden for Bashinski

Patient Name: Dan Bashinski

As a tax preparer, February, March and April are stressful months for Wausau resident Dan Bashinski, but in 2010, taxes were the least of his concerns.

In February, just as he was gearing up for his busiest time of the year, Bashinski and his wife Bernadette noticed a lump just behind his jaw line on the right side of his face. Being a nurse practitioner, Bernadette stressed that he have it looked at.

Dan Bashinski and his wife, Bernadette.

The couple has a friend who is a doctor, and when he examined Bashinski’s lump, he agreed that it should be further evaluated immediately. Bashinski took the advice and made an appointment with his family doctor, who referred him to an ENT specialist.

Bashinski underwent biopsies and ultrasound, which affirmed that Bashinski’s parotid glands, the largest of the salivary glands, had developed into masses on both sides of his face. One of them was cancerous. To make matters worse, things got even more complicated from there.

A PET scan showed additional abnormalities on his thyroid gland and a gland on the base of his tongue, which meant Bashinski would be facing a very complex surgery. Making the surgery even more complex was the fact that Bashinski had a benign brain tumor removed 30 years ago and that surgery had caused paralysis on the left side of his face and deafness in his left ear.

“There is a key facial nerve that runs through the parotid gland. If severed during surgery, we knew the other side of his face would also become paralyzed,” Bernadette said. “Every doctor we worked with at Aspirus and in Madison was so outstanding about realizing what was happening and the possible implications. They really just wanted to do what was best by Dan.”

After less than a month of testing and consultations, Bashinski underwent surgery on Feb. 25 in Madison. During the surgery, doctors removed half of Bashinski’s thyroid, both of his parotid glands – the left one was benign at that point – and 32 lymph nodes. Doctors also discovered that the malignancy in Bashinski’s right parotid had invaded the facial nerve, so the lower half of that had to be removed, which left the right side of his face paralyzed from the nose down.

“He’s always had a little corner smile that was one of the things that first attracted me to him,” said Bashinski’s wife of 47 years. “Despite the facial paralysis, he kept that little corner smile.”

Bashinski was released from the hospital on Feb. 27 and had experienced no pain. He would, however, require radiation treatments to ensure the cancer was gone. The couple was preparing to make the long trip to Madison a daily one, so Bashinski could have his radiation treatments done at the same facility as his surgery, but his radiologist in Madison encouraged them to consider the Aspirus Regional Cancer Center, so they could stay close to home.

“We visited the Aspirus cancer center and found they were very personable. They introduced me to the whole radiation process, which could have been very scary without that education,” Bashinski said. “After that, we were very comfortable with the quality of care and we decided to go with Aspirus.”

Bashinski underwent 28 TomoTherapy radiation treatments, and also received speech therapy at his request. During his treatments and therapy, Bashinski had several anxious moments and lost weight because it was so difficult for him to eat because of the paralysis, but his wife and the staff at the Aspirus Regional Cancer Center stressed patience and nutritional adaptations.

“The only expectation I had about my treatments was to receive the highest level of care, and I was never disappointed,” Bashinski said. “It was important to us that they treated us like people – not just another case while they checked their watches. They always prepared us for everything and they really treated us both.”

Bashinski completed all 28 treatments and despite the emotional and physical toll the whole experience took, being able to stay close to home made the whole process easier. He even managed to get his clients’ taxes done.

“The day after being discharged, I was back to doing taxes,” he said. “The most difficult part of the whole thing was accepting the word ‘cancer’ and not knowing what the outcome would be. My wife was my guardian angel. She wrote my medical history to give to all of my doctors and without her and our spiritual strength, I couldn’t have gotten through this.”

Created: Oct 27, 2010

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