Patient Story - Phil Licata
Phil Licata is a professional photographer who translates the realities he views through his lens into emotional beauty. His favorite shots are unscripted portraits capturing moments suspended in time that often become documentaries of life’s spontaneity. His personal portfolio includes a couple on a romantic holiday in Venice; a woman stooped over from hard work, guiding a traditional fishing boat down a river in Vietnam; and a young schoolgirl in El Salvador, intently studying her Spanish book.
The symbiotic partnership Phil creates with his subjects allows him to capture life, unplugged.
As a seasoned commercial photographer, Phil also works with one of Kansas City’s oldest and largest hospitals, Research Medical Center. He shoots photos for brochures, annual reports and patient stories, being careful to underscore the dignity of individuals and the compassion of healthcare professionals.
When Phil went to his doctor in January 2010 with a compromised immune system, he suddenly became a patient on the other side of the lens. “I worked through the holidays, not feeling well, but just kept going,” says Phil. “My chiropractor of 35 years became alarmed when he saw my diminished condition and urged me to visit the Emergency Room.”
Phil underwent a battery of tests at Research Medical Center’s ER, a place where he has years of experience of photographing doctors and nurses at work. Physicians admitted him immediately to the hospital with pneumonia, kidney failure, dehydration, anemia and a cracked spine.
Following a bone marrow biopsy, Phil was diagnosed with Stage IV multiple myeloma, a cancer that affects white blood cells. His medical oncologist, Jaswinder Singh, MD, of Midwest Cancer Care at Research Medical Center, started Phil on infusions, oral medications and radiation treatments.
“My numbers tumbled within six months to put me at Stage II,” says Phil. “Dr. Singh presented me with two options: a bone marrow transplant or a drug maintenance program. I opted for the latter.”
Dr. Singh suggested the bone marrow transplant to Phil as a first choice because statistics show that multiple myeloma has a better chance for going into remission. Known as an international expert who speaks and writes on drug therapies, Dr. Singh also presented maintenance as a viable alternative to Phil, along with Research Medical Center’s innovative Center for Integrative Therapy.
Phil says he lives in a holistic world and makes himself accountable to his health and well-being. “Dr. Singh is a partner in caring for my cancer,” he says. “It was important to me that he was supportive of things to complement my protocol such as massage therapies, stress management and support groups now being offered through the Center for Integrative Therapy at Research’s Brookside campus. These types of therapies contribute much to my quality of life beyond an individual living with cancer.”
When Phil received his diagnosis in 2010, his world came to a halt. “I had to rethink everything,” he says. “I had to be open to a new lifestyle that included things like drugs and radiation while still maintaining my business and satisfying clients. I had to understand that the progress in treating the myeloma could be slow, and not always successful.”
More than anything, Phil had to accept and respect the healing process, something he says he was able to do with Dr. Singh’s help. “I’ve always been a forward-mover in life,” says Phil.
The partnership that Phil has developed with Dr. Singh is a relationship the veteran photographer cherishes. “I am fortunate to have Dr. Singh as my oncologist for many reasons,” explains Phil, “but it’s the team effort that is critical to my recovery.”
When Phil turned the camera on himself to snap his patient story photo, he was intent on documenting the serenity he has reached during his cancer journey. He regards that peace as the result of one of the most crucial partnerships he’s ever built.
“Dr. Singh’s willingness and attitude to explore different things gives me hope,” says Phil. “He is quite a guy to have on your team.”