Countless Fairfield County residents have been helped by the Whittingham Cancer Center.
They — and their loved ones — benefit from the comprehensive care and leading-edge treatments for all types and stages of cancer at the Norwalk Hospital facility.
On Saturday, May 14 at Norwalk’s Calf Pasture Beach, we’ve got a chance to pay it forward. A 5K Run (8:30 a.m.) and 3K walk (10:30 a.m.) will raise funds for programs and services there.
This is the 18th annual C. Anthony & Jean Whittingham Cancer Center Walk & Run. It also marks the 25th anniversary of the facility.
Dr. Pradip Pathare remembers that entire quarter century — and much more. The Westport resident has been a Norwalk Hospital radiation oncologist for 40 years.
He discovered the specialty during his residency at Yale. It combined hands-on medicine with patient contact.
Dr. Pathare says that radiation oncology has come a long way from its earlier reputation: delivering bad news.
“This is not ‘working with dying patients,'” he says. “The pendulum has swung. We cure a lot of patients — the majority — even those we used to lose, like to breast cancer. It’s not a depressing field at all.”
And those who do succumb to the disease, he says, are comforted throughout their time at Whittingham.
Dr. Pathare says he continues to learn new things about cancer, and its treatment. “You’re never too old to be a student. That’s what I love about this field.”
He cites 4D simulation, which adds both motion and time to 3D, to predict the spread of tumors.
Another advancement: surgical techniques that eliminate invasive cutting.
But when Dr. Pathare joined Norwalk Hospital 40 years ago, the radiation oncology department was housed “in the basement, between the morgue and the laundry.”
Donor by donor, brick by brick, he helped build what he calls “a world-class facility.”
He recalls an older woman he treated for skin cancer, using “an old machine held together with Band-Aids.”
Three months later, after her cure, she asked what his department needed. Dr. Pathare mentioned the machine.
How much would it cost? she wondered. $100,000, he said.
She wrote a check on the spot.
Donors like her have helped Whittingham upgrade every aspect of care. A key element was bringing separate offices — one for radiation, another for chemotherapy, a third for surgery — together in one place.
Tony and Jean Whittingham gave the seed money, in honor of his mother who died of ovarian cancer.
As the family — and many others — continued support, the Whittingham Cancer Center outgrew its Stevens Street location. It’s now around the corner, on Maple Street.
Dr. Pathare — the first director — helped design it. “I knew what would work: a very inviting space,” he says. He made sure the architects followed his vision.
In 2017, Memorial Sloan Kettering and Whittingham announced a collaboration. Integration with the existing Norwalk program — in which Norwalk Hospital oncologist, nurses, surgeons and pathologists practice alongside MSK doctors — was the first outside of New York State.
Dr. Pathare’s 2 daughters — Swapna and Meena — went through Kings Highway Elementary, Bedford Middle and Staples High Schools. Like their father, they still live here — with kids at Kings Highway.
The Pathare family continues to thrive in Westport. In Norwalk, Whittingham Cancer Center does the same.
(Click here to register for the Whittingham Cancer Center Walk & Run. Click here to contribute if you cannot attend by donating to the event or a specific team, and/or buying a tribute sign or balloon ribbon.)