Rocco Colangelo Jr., 54, has battled cancer since 2013. Still, the Hazle Township resident has risen above challenges he’s faced, and credits doctors, nurses and staff at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) Cancer Center–Hazleton, part of Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute, for helping him on the journey.
A long road
Initially, Colangelo was diagnosed with colon cancer that had metastasized to his liver. He started chemotherapy and underwent multiple procedures, including liver resection at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center. Yet cancer returned in 2014 and 2015, and again in 2016, when it spread to his lungs. By January 2017, Colangelo was oxygen-dependent and receiving chemotherapy every two weeks at an MSK location over two hours away. "Because of the distance, I couldn’t drive myself to and from treatments. I am very fortunate to have wonderful support from my sisters, Cheryl and Terri, who would drive and attend sessions with me," Colangelo says.
"Getting treated here means I have my independence as well as support close to home."
Care close to home
In April 2017, Colangelo learned he could have chemotherapy administered locally at the new LVHN Cancer Center–Hazleton. LVHN’s membership in the MSK Cancer Alliance made the cancer center an obvious choice. After meeting with hematologist oncologist Harvey Hotchner, MD, with LVPG Hematology Oncology, Colangelo was convinced. "I have amazing people caring for me both here and at MSK, and communication between the two is seamless," Colangelo says. "Getting treated here means I have my independence as well as support close to home." Better still, treatment is helping: Colangelo no longer requires supplemental oxygen, and his cancer is not growing. "To see Rocco fully functional right now is amazing," Hotchner says. "And because he’s treated close to home, he can use his time to really enjoy life."
Paying it forward
With chemotherapy treatment every 14 days, the days Colangelo feels well are precious. "I try to stay as productive as possible and give to other people," Colangelo says. "I honestly feel like I get more out of it than they get from me." He divides his time among local charities, including the Committee to Help Handicapped Infants and Parents Succeed (CHHIPS), the football team’s booster club, his local church and Funfest, a local street festival. "Everyday is a blessing," says Colangelo. "You appreciate the time you get with your family, you make time to see old friends, and you try to do what you can do for others."