Anthony Allis is a walking public service announcement against smoking and for the options available when lung cancer is discovered early. Walking is the operative word here. He's walking a mile each day and playing golf at least twice a week — even though he'll turn 86 on July 28 and was diagnosed with lung cancer just nine months ago.
He attributes his recovery to a minimally invasive cancer treatment called radio frequency ablation, known as RFA, which is used for early stage and inoperable tumors in the lungs, liver, kidney and bone.
"The difference in him after the procedure was like night to day," said his wife, Adele Allis, a retired pharmacist.
He had been a longtime smoker.
"I'm of Italian descent and figure I'd be in great health if I hadn't smoked," Allis said. "I quit smoking 20 years ago, but smoked for 50. If I was still smoking, I wouldn't be here. "
He may be right. There were 215,020 new lung cancer cases and 161,840 deaths in the United States in 2008, with smoking cigarettes attributed as the predominant cause, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Allis went home from the hospital the day after the procedure, started walking a few days later and was back up to a mile within a week.
He uses a cart when he plays golf but says he walks plenty on the course. He also carries a portable chair for his walks and golf, so he can sit and rest any time he wants.
"I'm doing well now," he said. "This time of the year, I play golf two, maybe three times a week. I'd tell anyone thinking about having RFA to absolutely have it done."
Radio frequency ablation has been around almost 20 years. The nonsurgical, localized procedure transmits radio frequency energy through a tiny needle that creates heat and shrinks or obliterates tumors.
The procedure can replace surgery or can be used in conjunction with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. When used for inoperable tumors, the procedure can increase a person's survival time and quality of life.
But it's not for everyone. Tumor size matters, and the cancer cannot be close to major blood vessels.
"I was always optimistic," Allis said. "My wife, she's the worrier. Everybody has to die sometime. I've lived a good life, traveled abroad extensively. I love Paris. And over the past 10 years we've visited Italy eight times. We both love Italy, the museums, the art. I've been lucky."
The retired New York City school teacher and Marine who served in Iwo Jima is only 5-foot-41/2-inches tall and 115 pounds.
He likes to stay fit and has lived an active outdoor life, especially since he and Adele moved to Clearwater 15 years ago.
He is an avid reader and a lover of classical music, so much so that he listens to opera on his iPod during his walks.
He especially likes Italian composers Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini and Antonio Vivaldi.
He also likes to joke, saying, "I told my wonderful Indian doctors, your Hindu gods have been good to me. They laughed."
Dr. Ash Verma, an interventional radiologist at Mease Countryside Hospital, performed Allis' procedure.
"Cancer in the early stages is usually silent," Verma said. "Since his cancer was caught and treated in the early stages, he did not have many physical symptoms related to it. Left untreated, he would likely have symptoms such as increasing fatigue and shortness of breath from an enlarging mass."
A few years earlier, Allis had survived surgery on the carotid artery in his neck and the insertion of stents in his leg arteries to improve his circulation.
Allis remains cancer free and credits his doctors. Verma gives kudos to Allis.
"I truly believe that a positive attitude goes a long way in a patient's recovery," Verma said. "It allows one to mentally face the many challenges that go along with treatment of cancer, including pain, fatigue, loss of appetite and a myriad of other symptoms.
"Cancer patients often suffer from depression which is not always diagnosed. This hinders their physical recovery and energy level.
"Having a positive attitude allows the patient to look forward to the future and be proactive in their physical and mental recovery. Mr. Allis' energy level is still intact and he is as jovial as ever."