By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez
With all the leaps and advances of the 21st Century, it is an unfortunate reality that cancer is still such a prevalent and common disease locally and globally. It is almost unusual to meet someone who has not been touched by this serious disease. It is quite common in today’s world that one may be a survivor, or has a family member or friend who is a survivor, or is one who is in the fierce fight to survive a cancer.
In the front lines fighting this disease alongside his patients, you will find Dr. Ghanem Daghestani. A medical oncologist and hematologist, Dr. Daghestani is dedicated to treating and attending to his patients at the Hope Cancer Clinic located at The Cancer Center at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, Texas.
As your local doctor, Dr. Daghestani is equipped with a vast array of knowledge, experience, and compassion against a complex and dangerous disease that has taken the lives of too many already. With all the advances and development in the treatment of cancer care available to us, Dr. Daghestani firmly believes that it is crucial for his patients to keep a positive attitude towards cancer. “Hope is the essence of the treatment!”
“As a doctor, my primary goal is to cure the disease, if not, then I strive to prolong life; in the final stages my goal is patient comfort and pain control,” Dr. Daghestani said in an Exclusive interview with Mega Doctor News.
Dr. Daghestani moved to the Rio Grande Valley in 2006, with the hope of providing high quality care and service to our local communities. Dr Daghestani studied, trained, and worked in California before moving to the Valley; “I did my residency at the California Pacific Medical Center at the University of California San Francisco.” He also attended the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).
Dr. Daghestani graduated in 1984 from the University of Aleppo, Faculty of Medicine in Syria. “I had the privilege to take my last year’s examination for medical school at the Paris V Rene Descartes University,” he said. According to our research, this university is considered one of the most prestigious European universities for medical sciences, social sciences and research in psychology. “I also did my military service in France,” he said.
Along with his medical experience, Dr. Daghestani comes to the Valley with a great cultural mix. Born to a Syrian father, Baha Eddine Daghestani and a French mother, Jacqueline Cloarec, he was raised between these two countries, with a few years in Lebanon. He was lucky to be brought up trilingual, speaking Arabic, French, and English. Living in California and now the Valley, he has easily been able to pick up Spanish.
There is no doubt that dealing with cancer is profoundly complex, however it is now known that certain types of cancers seem to run in some families. This can be caused by a number of factors. Often, family members have certain risk factors in common, such as smoking, which can cause many types of cancer.
In some cases an abnormal gene that is being passed along from generation to generation causes the cancer. Although this is often referred to as inherited cancer, what is inherited is the abnormal gene that can lead to cancer, not the cancer itself. Only about 5% to 10% of all cancers are inherited according to studies and research.
Dr. Daghestani says that the biggest challenge as a doctor in oncology is when the patient comes for the first time with an unknown diagnosis or with an already confirmed diagnosis that is terrible news to the patient. “The biggest challenge is being able to comfort the patient and then gain his or her confidence,” he said.
He also pointed out that this represents a big responsibility as a physician because the patient is putting his life in the doctor’s hands. “As an oncologist we have to make sure that the patient gets the best treatment so he gets the best chances for cure,” he said.
Dr. Daghestani has been asked many times what inspired him to become a doctor. He said that when he was 15, he had to undergo surgery on his arm. “At that time I learned how amazing and sacred the relationship is between the patient and the physician. That doctor saved my arm and I knew at that point I wanted to go into medicine, so I too can save lives,” he said.
“I have always seen myself as a caring and compassionate advocate for my patients, but as fate would have it, a few years ago my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. This turning point in my life allowed me to be on the other side and I was able to experience the patient’s side during this tragic experience in life. Watching her fight like a true warrior keeps me going and keeps me fighting for my patients.”
He told Mega Doctor News he found himself at the crossroads in his studies knowing that in his heart, Oncology was his calling. Early during his fellowship, he felt a commitment for the future. “It is funny”, he said. “That was the time when I met my wife and things happened,” he said. Was it love at first sight? “We can say so!”
Dr. Daghestani is very passionate and involved in community advocacy, awareness campaigns and meetings. He has participated in numerous fundraisings for many groups including the American Cancer Society in Brownsville, Edinburg, and McAllen, Texas. “I have given speeches on their behalf at Relay4Life and The Cattle Barron Ball.” He is also active with all the activities of the Cancer Center at Renaissance. At his clinic, with the help of his wife Suzan, they have formed a monthly support group for patients and family members,” he said. “My patients feel that we are family, and I cherish that.” The support group activities started about two years ago; and we can proudly say that there are more than 30 people who attend religiously.
His plans for the immediate and long-range future are to create local research programs. He is currently working with other physicians through Doctors Hospital at Renaissance exclusively for this purpose. “We hope that this becomes a reality which will be the highlight of the expansion in the profession providing opportunities for patients who don’t have alternative options,” he said.
Could you give me an example of not having options? “Some patients have an advanced disease, a disease that is recurrent, yet we continue to treat them. However, some patients escape, meaning that the disease continues to progress despite the treatment,” he said.
He continued, “There are available treatments up to a point after which those treatments are not working anymore. The research would provide new medications that could give insight into the disease and hopefully be more active on the disease affecting the patient.”
The ironic part of the word disease is that it is the opposite of being at ease. So do people get sick because they are not at ease?
“Linguistically this is a good question and a very interesting one,” he stated. “We know that people may be occasionally in stressful situations which can negatively affect their body in one way or another. There are diseases that are exacerbated by stress and measures such as relaxation, exercise, and good personal relationships can actually help the patient at least deal with the disease and get a better outcome,” he stated. “In the case of cancer, we work to heal to the best of our ability, but at the end it’s the patient’s spirit that will overcome this stressful experience! Hope and mostly faith are essential in this long journey.”
How do you deal with the stress that you get in your practice? “When I leave work I make sure that all my patient’s needs have been taken care of and sealed for the day. When I get off of work I try as best as I can to empty my mind and spend great quality time with my children and my wife to be able to go back to work fresh the next day,” he said.
During his more than two decades as a practicing oncologist, he has seen hundreds of patients and his fulfillment is reduced to a few words, “Fulfillment is pure and simple, when the patient is satisfied and I see a smile on their face.”
He is married to Suzan Aldairi Daghestani and they have four girls or Ghanem’s Angels, as he likes to call them; Samia 14, in 9th grade; Sumaya 12, in 7th grade; Maysam 11, in 5th grade, and Mariam 6, in 1st grade. “They provide my comfort, my peace, my joy when I come back home. I grew up with sports being part and parcel of my life and today I make an effort to remain very active playing tennis, table tennis, and my daughters favorite, volleyball.” As a family we also enjoy all our free time at the island, swimming, boating, and fishing.
He pointed out that the satisfaction of helping patients is something that you cannot put a value on. “This is actually addictive.” He continued, “I will always be a doctor as long as I can work.”
Dr. Ghanem Daghestani practices at the Hope Cancer Clinic located at 2717 Michael Angelo, Suite 303 in Edinburg, Texas (956) 687-4600.
For his commitment to the betterment of the health of his patients and his desire to help to find a cure for cancer, Dr. Ghanem Daghestani, oncologist, has been named Mega Doctor of the Month. MDN