Published on July 22, 2022

Mokena Vet Said Cancer Center at Silver Cross Kept Him on the ‘Battlefield’ at 76

Jim Schlegel-truck

Jim Schlegel-Salute

Jim Schlegel of Mokena is living life to the fullest following prostate cancer treatment at the UChicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox.

Dr. Sunil Narula

Dr. Ann McCall

Dr. Anne McCall

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in New Lenox, the UChicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross Hospital opened its doors in the summer of 2012. Since that time, the cancer center has treated more than 15,000 patients and enrolled more than 800 patients in a variety of cancer clinical trials not typically available within a community hospital setting. 

The center offers comprehensive care for many types of adult and gynecologic cancers in one convenient location. Advanced treatment options are available, including state-of-the-art chemotherapy and radiation therapy. 

In early 2022, the center expanded its space, nearly doubling in size and adding more infusion rooms and exam rooms to accommodate the growing number of individuals seeking care there. The center combines academic specialists and the latest cancer treatments in a location that’s comfortable, familiar and close to home. 

That was important for Jim Schlegel of Mokena, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2013. 

Schlegel says his diagnosis may have been caused by the curse of King Tut’s tomb, which he visited on a trip to Egypt several years ago. But more than likely, the Agent Orange he and his fellow Vietnam veterans ingested more than 50 years ago caused his once sturdy body to show the “check engine” light in his mid-70s. 

“In 2013, I went to my GP, and he told me that my PSA level was starting to rise,” said Schlegel of Mokena. “So, we watched it for a while, and it kept rising. Finally, he said, let’s do a biopsy of your prostate.” 

He added, “Out of 13 samples, 10 came back cancer. So, I went in to have my prostate removed.” That’s when doctors discovered Schlegel had a condition called atrial fibrillation, an irregular and often very rapid heart rhythm that can lead to blood clots in the heart and increases the risk of stroke and temporarily postponed his surgery. 

Once Schlegel’s heart arrhythmia was under control, he had his prostate removed the very next month. 

Between 2013 and 2020, everything looked good with his prostate, Schlegel said, (although in 2022 he did have a pacemaker implanted to control his atrial fibrillation).

“Then in 2020, my PSA started rising again, and I’m thinking, ‘How can that be? I don’t have a prostate.’ But it got high enough that they did an MRI at the University of Chicago and found some cancer cells in one of my lymph nodes, stage 3,” he added. 

High Quality Care Close to Home

Schlegel said doctors prescribed a course of radiation, five days a week for eight weeks. But instead of having to go into Chicago daily for treatment, he was able to take advantage of the UChicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox. 

Schlegel said the cancer center at Silver Cross couldn’t have been more convenient for him. 

“From the time I left home until I returned from the treatments, it was about an hour and a half,” he said. “And everyone at Silver Cross was so nice and professional, from the valet, who also was a veteran, to the staff doing the treatment. 

He added, “The parking is close and free, and not having to drive into Chicago for the same great team of doctors and staff is a bonus.” 

Cancer-Free Outcome

Since the treatment, his PSA levels have been “nil,” Schlegel said. Other than needing to adjust his pacemaker and after-effects of an interferon shot to help chase away any remaining cancer cells, he said he and his wife Kathleen are ready to travel again … like they did when they toured the pyramids in Egypt and ventured into King Tut’s tomb. 

“They tell you there are some electromagnetic forces in the tomb. All I know is, my heart rate shot from 48 to 133. So, there must have been something going on,” said Schlegel. 

More seriously, Schlegel has noted many of his Vietnam comrades have succumbed to or at least been treated for prostate cancer. He suggested they get checked out right away if they haven’t already.

And if they’re in the Chicago area, he added, “Silver Cross is the place to go. All the doctors and staff kept me on the battlefield. Not bad for 76.” 

“Over 10 years a lot has changed,” said Sunil Narula, M.D., Hematologist/Oncologist and Medical Director of Medical Oncology for the Cancer Center. “We’ve grown leaps and bounds. We’ve expanded into Pavilion B taking over part of the second floor, doubling our space for medical oncology. To bring therapies that you only thought were university-level or available at academic centers, right to your backyard? We couldn’t ask for more.” 

Anne McCall, M.D., Radiation Oncologist and Medical Director of Radiation Therapy, added, “Here, patients have access to multidisciplinary conferences. They have access to all the clinical trials that they might need. There's too many patients to count who were grateful that they didn't have to travel, and the families were grateful, and the fact that we could offer them many of the same things that they could get downtown. Over and over again, even to this day, people say, ‘I am so grateful that you are here.’” 

For more information on cancer care services available at Silver Cross Hospital, visit www.silvercross.org.

Physicians on Silver Cross Hospital’s Medical Staff have expertise in their areas of practice to meet the needs of patients seeking their care. These physicians are independent practitioners on the Medical Staff and are not the agents or employees of Silver Cross Hospital. They treat patients based upon their independent medical judgment and they bill patients separately for their services.