Cancer survivor giving thanks to the doctor who helped him through difficult times

Local News

A story of hope from an Erie man.

Tim Berrier says he was depressed, feeling hopeless, and about ready to give up on life after a long and difficult battle with throat cancer. Berrier was diagnosed with throat cancer when the COVID-19 pandemic began last year. He was referred to UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh for treatment.

The good news is, the cancer was located and removed and he is now cancer free. He spent 50 days in the hospital after a series of complications.

Berrier was offered help from a psychologist from their Survivors Clinic, but he didn’t think he needed help.

“After what I had been through, the pandemic, my surgery, radiation, I found myself in a very deep, dark, and sad state of depression.” Berrier said.

In the comfort of his home in Erie, he had a series of teleconference meeting with Alexandra Olson. He credits her with getting him through the toughest moments of his life.

“It is really hard. It’s not something that we think about all that often until you are dealt with something like this.” Olson said.

“She came in and with her professional sincerity, dedication and devotion, she devoted herself to bringing me back to a new normal.” Berrier said.

Berrier says he was so grateful and he recently wrote a letter to the hospital because he wanted her to be recognized. He also says the mental aspect of the cancer is just as deadly as the physical part.

“I was in for the ride of my life. It’s something that I have never gone through and would never wish it upon anybody. I suspect most cancer patients do go through something like this.” Berrier said.

Olson says too many patients don’t think mental health treatment is needed, including Tim at first.

“One thing that is important is that it does not mean that person is not strong or does not know how to navigate that or does not have support systems to navigate it. It’s something that should not be navigated alone.” Olson said.

Below is Tim Berrier’s letter to the hospital.

Note: In our earlier reporting, we incorrectly identified Alexandra Olson as a doctor. She is a graduate psychology student and assigned to work in the UPMC Head & Neck Survivorship Clinic. We apologize for the error.

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