Thursday, April 11, 2013

Town councilor taking break to fight cancer

As published in the Record Journal on Thursday April 11, 2013

By Andrew Ragali
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

Wallingford Town Councilor John Sullivan.

Photo Courtesy of the Record-Journal


WALLINGFORD – John Sullivan was in no rush to leave Robert Earley Auditorium after Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting. After the meeting adjourned, Sullivan, a Democrat who has served on the council since 2010, remained behind.

He sat in his assigned chair, chatting with and embracing fellow councilors, enjoying a view that he’ll miss for at least the next few months. Sullivan, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in March 2012, will undergo surgery to remove the cancer today and won’t attend council meetings while he recovers. He knows he has a battle ahead, but it is one he expects to win.

“I really think I’m going to be fine,” the 54-year-old said.

During a phone conversation earlier on Tuesday, Sullivan had expressed faith in the medical team at the Weill Cornell Medical College at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. He’ll receive treatment from one of the leading experts in the fields of prostate cancer and robotics, Dr. Ashutosh Tewari.

Tewari, director of the Prostate Cancer Institute and the LeFrak Robotic Surgery Center at Weill Cornell, is one of busiest prostate surgeons in the world, according to the Weill Cornell web site. In the last five years, he has performed more than 2,500 operations.

“People come from all over the country to see Dr. Tewari,” said Sullivan. “He’s the most wonderful doctor I’ve ever met.”

Sullivan said that when he’s put to sleep to have his prostate robotically removed, “I’m in God’s hands, but the doctor is going to be there too.”

He realizes recovery will be long and challenging.

“I’m not going to be in the clear for five years,” he said. Sullivan is glad that the cancer was found at an early stage and is treatable. Since the initial diagnosis a year ago, Sullivan said, he has led a healthy lifestyle, eating well and exercising daily. Never in his life did Sullivan think he’d be in this predicament, and for that reason he urges others to have the appropriate check-ups regularly.

“I didn’t think this could ever happen to me,” Sullivan said, “and it did.”

If he can help one person in this way, “I’m going to feel like a million bucks,” he said.

Sullivan will miss Town Council meetings, but is not thinking about politics right now. His main concern is his health and family.

Fellow councilors are also concerned about Sullivan’s health and family, but will also miss his presence on the council.

“His input is always important,” said Town Councilor John LeTourneau. “I wish him the best.”

LeTourneau commended Sullivan for talking publicly about cancer.

“It’s important as a voice of the community to tell people to go get checked,” Le-Tourneau said.

Vincent Cervoni, vice-chairman of the Town Council, said he considers Sullivan “a good friend” and is “thinking about and praying for him.”

Town Council Chairman Robert Parisi said he’s been friends with Sullivan for years, and they’ve taken several trips together.

“He’s a very dedicated friend and family man,” said Parisi, who presented Sullivan with a card during Tuesday’s council meeting. “He’s an excellent town councilor as well. I’m sure he’s going to be fine.”

“Obviously, as a councilor, or not a councilor and just knowing him, you wish him the very best,” Town Councilor Jason Zandri said. Going public with his health issue is “noble,” Zandri added.

Town Councilor Craig Fishbein said he found it difficult to put his feelings into words. He is shocked and concerned.

“I wish him the best,” Fishbein said.

Town Councilor Rosemary Rascati said Sullivan is “a great guy and he’s been in our prayers.”

“I’m sure he’s going to be just fine,” she said. “He’s healthy and young and he’ll be just fine. We think the world of him.”

Today is also Sullivan’s birthday. “I’m giving myself the gift of life,” he said.

But Sullivan knows that it will be a long while until he’s in the clear, and it’s something he accepts.

“We have to face, at times, our own mortality.”

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