When a neurosurgeon gets a rare brain tumor …

… It helps quite a lot if he or she has family, faith—and a pioneering radiosurgery/neurosurgery colleague as a close friend and confidante.

At least, that’s how things went for Jose Augusto Nasser, MD, PhD, a cancer survivor and neurosurgeon in Rio de Janeiro who trained in the 1990s at Columbia Presbyterian in New York.

While there he got to know Michael Sisti, MD. Over the years they stayed in touch. The two told their story to MedPage Today.

“We treat 20 people per million per year with this tumor,” says Sisti, an associate professor of clinical neurosurgery, radiation oncology and otolaryngology (and co-director of the institution’s radiosurgery center). “It’s already a rarity, so how likely is it that someone who is a neurosurgeon gets one of these? And how likely is it that you know that neurosurgeon and that his tumor happens to fall in your area of expertise?”

For Nasser, being on the other side of the scalpel meant opening his eyes to the patient experience in wholly unexpected ways.

“As a doctor, you have one side of the story. Having both sides of the story makes all the difference,” Nasser says. “Now, I practice with love. It’s real, and it matters. If you don't give to your patients love, you don't give them anything.”

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