The Cancer Center’s Story Project is an effort to capture stories from our community of patients, friends, family, clinicians, and staff who have been affected by cancer in some way. This is William's Story.
- William Santoro is no stranger to Mass General. Watching the hospital grow over the past 50 years, Bill has made connections here that will last a lifetime.
- "At first I didn’t know whether or not I was going to be able to do it… Sometimes you’re tired, and you say 'I don’t want to go through this anymore' but I managed to do it."
Where does your story begin?
"I had cancer about three years ago - I was diagnosed with it. I went to the Lunder building down on L3 floor, they have radiation treatment which I had for two and a half months. Every day I had to go in and if I missed a day, I couldn’t stay in the program. So I had to make sure that I went there every day. At the end of it we got a diploma and got to ring the bell. When we rang the bell everybody claps, and when it was my turn it was nice. I also met three or four people there that had the same time schedule and I kept in contact with them for a while. A year after that I was diagnosed with some heart problems. I had a quadruple bypass on my heart here at Mass General and this is how I came over here, to Yawkey. I’ve been coming here every week now to get blood injections which are helping out a lot. At first I didn’t know whether or not I was going to be able to come every day (for radiation treatment) because sometimes you’re tired, and you say, 'I don’t want to go through this anymore' but I managed to do it. The nurses and doctors were excellent and made me feel at home and that’s one of the reasons why I kept on coming here.
So you’ve been coming here once a week every week for the past 2 years?
"I come here from Somerville. After I had my heart operation I had to come here. I was in the hospital for 3 months for that one. It’s my second home. I got to know all the ambassadors, and when I came in they all know my name."
What has been your best experience here?
"The best experience was going down to the Lunder building, it was just nice seeing people that have the same kind of problems with cancer. Fortunately, I did two and half months of radiation instead of the surgery because with my platelets being so low they gave me surgery. It was really nice – I shouldn’t say nice but it helped me get by a lot."
"I have all specialty doctors here since that time. My primary care doctor which is in internal medicine in the Wang building; she helps set up all the different doctors that I needed to see. Specialists in sleeping, specialists doing MRIs, CAT scans, and everything. I got to know everybody really well and that helped. Mass General to me is not a strange place, I’m 64 now and I came here when I was 16 years old. I’ve seen this hospital grow. When I was here very young it was just the main White Building and I was up there. I get The Ride, and we were talking about how Mass General is running out of property to build things. It’s just amazing how this hospital has grown."
Has your outlook on anything changed since you started coming here?
"Oh yeah, my outlook now is that I try to keep calm in every situation. I try not to get stressed out or anything like that. I talk about cancer to some of my friends. One of them just got diagnosed. He doesn’t know which way to go, either chemo or radiation. So he’s got to make the decision along with his doctors. My doctors were great. I learned a lot about my body, I really did. What it could absorb and not absorb, it was quite interesting. It was a mind-changer for me."
Is there anything you would like to add?
"Well I think that the main thing is you have got to go in there with an open mind, try not to shut it out and think about ‘oh this’ or ‘oh that.’ You got to keep an open mind. And the staff and doctors, they make sure that you’re comfortable. They have the Healing Garden on the 8th floor of Yawkey. I went up there a lot, and through that I also got interested in some of the art on the wall. Did you know you can buy them! I’ve got one painting, but there’s a couple more here I like. When you come every week you see them, so I asked around and people told me that they take them down and you can buy them. There’s a book of every one of them where you can get the names of the paintings, artists, and all sorts of nice stuff."
"I come in here every day. There’s always something new that can help you out and cheer you up. That’s the main thing. Being cheered up by family members or friends. It makes you strong enough to go through with it, knowing that the outcome is going to be positive. You have to think positive."
At first I didn’t know whether or not I was going to be able to do it… Sometimes you’re tired, and you say 'I don’t want to go through this anymore' but I managed to do it.
This interview was conducted in February 2018 and has been edited for clarity.