Recently, I interviewed Doctor Arthur Rosenberg, now retired, but previously a certified Hematologist engaged in practice in Greenwich, CT. He was one of the leading chemo therapists in CT and known around the country for his unique and effective treatment plans. I was fortunate to have been referred to him by my team of surgeons at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital following my own oral surgery in 2003.
When I first met Dr. Rosenberg at his office, nineteen years ago, he stood up from behind his desk with a warm smile and extended his hand to shake mine. After being seated, he explained to my parents and me that after reviewing my case based on my young age and aggressive cancer that he had formulated a plan ” that was going to be potent and grueling, but it was to ideally ensure you would go on to live a healthy cancer-free life.” He was the first doctor in the State of CT to use platinum chemotherapy in combination with other drugs.
He emphasized that “Input from my patients was especially important because I felt a tremendous responsibility to help, and it is hard to make people sick to ideally make them healthy. It was a balancing act to destroy cancer while simultaneously making the treatment as palatable as possible. I always wanted to become a doctor and believed I was destined to do this as my career. At the time there were different areas of medicine that interested me. As fate would have it, I had an opportunity to enroll in a Hematology Internship Program at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC in 1965. At the time there was no such thing as a chemotherapy specialty.”
During his time at Mount Sinai, Dr. Rosenberg met Ezra Greenspan, a pioneer in the field who recommended he go to MSKCC for additional training and then come back and work with him. Rosenberg initially rejected the idea, but ultimately accepted a Hematology Internship at MSKCC focusing on childhood leukemia. While interning, he would be asked by colleagues and other doctors what to do after their patients recovered from various oncology surgeries. His training and study focused on solid tumors and blood disorders, and he soon realized there was an enormous need to identify how best to treat cancer using chemotherapy.
After completing training, he took the Chemotherapy Boards and became involved in general practice. He once told me “If I could have chosen any other profession it would have been composing music and writing songs. Although I have no regrets and really loved what I did. I had a genuine interest and love for what I did. It was intellectually stimulating. My only regret was not keeping a journal and then to have written a book. I think it would have been an interesting read.”
Doctor Rosenberg consistently provided me with hope during some of my most difficult moments, particularly during my most terrifying ER visits and hospitalization stays. I researched and wrote my graduate thesis on “The Power of Hope” and wanted to know his thoughts on the subject. Rosenberg said, “There is a distinct difference between realistic hope and false hope. The saddest part of my job was telling a patient, I am very sorry. Treatment is not working. Then to see patients seek fraudulent treatment and given false hope was exceedingly difficult and painful to observe.”
He also shared his thoughts on the new advancements made in cancer treatments and research. He indicated, “There are four areas of cancer treatment and research that I have found interesting. The first, is Immunotherapy. For years, we could not understand why the body was not more efficient in combating cancer. Cancer proteins (T-cells) were blocking the body’s ability to fight. Now with immunotherapy, it is remarkable to see what is happening. The second is Cart Therapy, which is bringing patients back from the grave. The side effects are extreme, but it can be life-altering for patients. Third, are Cancer Mutation studies to learn what mutations can be targeted on a molecular cell level, and lastly Gene Editing because there are broad applications with this technique. However, although it can be used to help cancer patients changing DNA to tailor embryo cells is playing God and I think ensuring therapeutic controls specifically for cancer is a much preferable alternative.”
I was extremely fortunate to have had Dr. Rosenberg’s exceptional care and unwavering support while I was battling cancer. It has been a distinct privilege to have stayed in touch with him all these years and to share his story with you. I am forever grateful for his help and treasure our friendship.