George Perrone, a former music professor at Framingham State College and music director at Framingham High School from Natick, Massachusetts, was handling heavy musical equipment and setting up for a rehearsal when he felt a sudden, sharp pain in his abdomen. When the pain remained consistent through the next day, he called his primary health care doctor who referred him to a gastrointestinal surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Upon consultation, he was informed that he would not only need to undergo treatment for an inguinal hernia, but also for a condition even more unexpected: stage 1 lung cancer.

“If I didn’t come in for the hernia, I would not have found out that I had a tumor on my lung,” said George. “The timing of the discovery was unbelievable. To the day, it was the anniversary of my wife’s lung cancer death 17 years ago. I remember Dr. Muniappan said to me, ‘you have an angel on your shoulder.’”

George’s lung cancer care team at Mass General was led by Ashok Muniappan, MD, thoracic surgeon, and Jessica Lin, MD, oncologist in the Center for Thoracic Cancers—two individuals George says he will not soon forget and will always treasure.

At Mass General, George received VATS (video assisted thoracoscopic surgery) lobectomy. George's post-operative care plan consists of a six-month check-in for two years to perform surveillance via cardiothoracic (CT) scans.

“I had one request before going into surgery: I said, ‘Dr. Muniappan, please play Mozart’s Piano Sonata in B-flat,’” he recalled. “I wish people could have witnessed the knowledge and confidence of the surgeons and staff.”

George Perrone, patient, stands with his son, Alexander
George [right] stands with his son, Alexander [left]

The request to be administered anesthesia is a moment also imprinted in Dr. Muniappan's memory. "He told me his son, Alexander, prepared for basketball games by playing Mozart and he requested the same," said Dr. Muniappan. "His son was a huge source of moral support. I have to believe it made a difference in his recovery."

With parents originally from Matera, Italy and a first language of Italian, George describes the amazement he felt at not only the care experience, but also the diversity of the members on the care team itself.

Today, George has been able to return to his current teaching position at Saint Joseph Preparatory High School and looks forward to returning soon to some of life’s joys, including maintaining his vegetable garden and embarking on his annual trip to Italy with his son.

From the post-operative nurses to the attending physicians, George’s experience came down to three words: intuitive, professional and compassionate.

“I’d rather go to Mass General than anywhere else,” he said. “Medically, musically and spiritually—the level of involvement in my care is something I’ll never forget.”