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Celebrate Excellent Care

Hugs Heal

by Mary Ellen South

According to Wikipedia, radiation therapy or radiotherapy, often abbreviated RT, RTx, or XRT, is therapy using ionizing radiation, generally as part of cancer treatment to control or kill malignant cells and normally delivered by a linear accelerator.

According to Tony Mastromarino, radiation therapy involves a little something more. The radiation oncology team at Tunnell Cancer Center dubbed him ‘Huggy Bear’. Tony is a big believer in giving and receiving hugs, an important part of the healing process for him and for others. The handwritten note accompanying Tony’s Celebrate Excellent Care gift thanked radiation oncologist Dr. Brian Costleigh and his team: Dear Dr. Costleigh, This is a gift of thanks and appreciation for your team of doctors, nurses, and radiation therapists. The hugs helped a lot too! –Tony Mastromarino.

Tony and his wife, Jeannette, moved from Bowie, Maryland to Milton in 2008. Tony had been a printer by profession, working in the D.C., VA, and MD areas. In semi-retirement he tried many vocations including working as a job coach for young adults with cerebral palsy. After their move to DE he volunteered for Catholic Charities in Milton.

For the first several years, Tony and Jeanette traveled back across the Bay Bridge for their medical care. Slowly but surely they transferred all of their healthcare to Beebe and feel they are receiving the best of care!

Tony’s Beebe experience began with a visit to the hospital for vascular surgery. Next came Tony’s journey with prostate cancer which began with their primary care physician, Dr. Haldar, and concluded with Dr. Costleigh and the radiation oncology team at Tunnell Cancer Center. Tony was treated with radiation for a total of forty-four days, Monday through Friday, July through August 2016. Following this he suffered a fall and experienced chronic back pain. He continues to work with Beebe’s Outpatient Services for support for this.

Tony was often the first patient at the radiation suite at Tunnell Cancer Center in the morning. He’d turn on the television and make himself feel right at home. The doctors and therapists made it feel like home. He states, “It really makes a difference when you know they care about you. They personalize everything and make you feel special.”

Tony is very proud to display his Graduate of Radiation Therapy Certificate, signed by the doctors, nurses, and radiation therapists. He’s also happy to share the thank you note he received from the Pre-Op Team at Beebe Hospital. He says he saves this memorabilia because the care has meant so much to him.

“When I ‘graduated’ from radiation therapy and didn’t have to go to Tunnell Cancer Center anymore, I felt like I lost my family,” says Tony. “Perhaps I’ll look into volunteering at Beebe in the future!”

According to therapists at Hug everybody loves being hugged, and it’s not just because of the warm feeling you get from a good hug. It goes deeper than this to your hormonal level. Hug therapy affects your entire body to an extent scientists claim is comparable to the effects of some drugs. Even the most trivial instance of touch can help you deal with one or more emotional issues to help you see clearly and deal with life from the point of strength. To quote Maya Angelou, “Everyday you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.”

The professionals at Beebe’s Tunnell Cancer Center know the power of hugging and showing sincere care and compassion for their patients. Tony Mastromarino passed on that power and received it, knowing it to be a testament to healing.

As a community-based, not-for-profit healthcare system, Beebe Healthcare depends on the generous support of the community. Four annual Beebe-sponsored golf tournaments help raise much-needed funds for Beebe’s Tunnell Cancer Center and its plans for a second cancer center in the Millville area. The 15th annual Progress for Prostate golf tournament will take place on Thursday, June 21 at the Cripple Creek Golf and Country Club to support Tunnell Cancer Center’s Men’s Health Program and Beebe Healthcare’s Robotic Surgery.

All gifts to Beebe Healthcare, large or small, are tax-deductible and are channeled through Beebe Medical Foundation and may be designated to specific areas such as the Tunnell Cancer Center. Please consider making a gift today and sharing your story with our community. To make your proud personal donation or to learn more about Celebrate Excellent Care, go online to or contact the Beebe Medical Foundation at (302) 644-2900 or write to [email protected]

Photo caption: Radiation oncologist Dr. Brian Costleigh and members of the radiation oncology staff receive a big thank you and many hugs from Tony Mastromarino for his treatment at Tunnell Cancer Center. Pictured left to right are Alygia Blank, Cindy Douthat, Katie Cox, Tony Mastromarino, Dr. Brian Costleigh, Jacki McCabe, André Lott, Rosa Smith, and Dineille Lloyd.