severe case of esophagitis, caused by the radiation therapy, hindered his ability to eat and he lost more weight. He soldiered through the treatment, making many trips to the emergency Department at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and spending much of the summer on the oncology ward there. “He developed an organizing pneumonia—one that’s not infectious or viral,” says Jabbour. “Its cause is unclear. It’s quite rare and can be difficult to diagnose. It made him very sick.” Thoracic surgeon John Langenfeld, MD, the other co-director of the Lung Cancer/Thoracic Oncology Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute, performed a VATS (video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery) biopsy, a minimally invasive procedure to verify that this represented a treatment effect rather than disease. “Between the pneumonia and the cancer treatment, I didn’t always know what was going on,” says Hufnagel. “I’m fortunate that Pam was there to be my rock and my advocate. I also had the support of our two sons and our families, as well as our large network of friends. They brought homemade cookies and so many meals that we had to commandeer a neighbor’s freezer.” The couple kept everyone informed through a free website where people can create blogs to share updates about serious health issues. “People make a difference—people like RWJ nurse Theresa Goldstein, who guided us through the eR,” adds Pam. “That help was T oday, Jim Hufnagel is cancer free, enjoying a heartwarming. One of the positive aspects of Rutgers Cancer Institute is its synergy with the hospital—having that linkage for medical records favorite spot in Cape Cod with his famiy (above). as well as for Dr. Aisner and Dr. Jabbour to be informed and involved when Jim was admitted.” Hufnagel never lost his determination, not just to recover, but to regain his life. Today, he’s cancer-free, though with diminished lung function. While he can’t exert himself in heat and humidity, he’s strong and active. He and his wife walk their dogs and enjoy sunny days at the Cape with their two young granddaughters. They recently traveled to Portugal, where they walked a few miles each day. More trips are planned too. He still thinks about the year he lost seeking a proper diagnosis. “I learned you must go to the right place with the right doctors,” he says. “I’m grateful to Rutgers Cancer Institute and RWJ for granting me a wonderful and much longer life than I originally hoped for.” While there are no guarantees that the cancer won’t return, he recently returned for his five-year checkup. His physicians are happy with his state of health. “yes, it’s true—he had a rough time getting to where he is now,” says Aisner. “But we had the idea that he might do a lot better with aggressive therapy, so we took the chance. We thought it was worth the side effects. And now, so does he.” I P HOTO By: KeLLy C R O N I N P H OTO G R A P H y 18 I Cancer Connection I Summer 2017