John and Sabina Grasso pull together with a great crew … and each other

John and Sabina Grasso balance each other well.  John is open and outspoken, "What you see is what you get," he says. Sabina, not as vocal, prefers to keep a low profile. She considers herself to be shy. "He is the right hand and I am the left," she says. 

John, age 72, is retired from his career with a trucking company. He now works construction for a friend's business. John is self-taught and he can fix or build just about anything. He loves to keep active. "I do lot more at 72 than some kids do at 40," he says.

Sabina worked as a bookkeeper at the same trucking company. She also was responsible for payroll at Jawonio, a facility in New City that serves people with disabilities. 

The couple has been married for 18 years. This is their second marriage – each lost their first spouse to cancer. John and Sabina's first husband had been best friends for years. "When we got married, her kids were like my own," says John. "Sabina's son Anthony calls me every day." All together, they have 5 children and 11 grandchildren. 

John and Sabina live in Suffern, just a few blocks from Good Samaritan. Both are patients of Dr. Bhardwaj.

Sabina had received care in New York City before coming to Dr. Bhardwaj.  "I was very scared when Sabina got sick. My first wife went to a leading hospital in the city for treatment, which I thought was the best," says John. "But 'best' doesn't mean it is best for everyone." 

Although Sabina responded well to the therapy there, the Grassos were frustrated by the service and care they received. "During chemo, nobody came in to check on me, and it took hours to see a doctor at the end of treatment," Sabina says. Once her treatment course was complete, they decided to come to Dr. Bhardwaj and The Bobbi Lewis Cancer Program at Good Samaritan for subsequent care. 

Sabina is approaching her fifth year of remission. "I see Dr. Bhardwaj twice a year," she says. "When he tells me that all looks good, I fill up with tears and then I hug him." 

In 2012, two years after Sabina began seeing Dr. Bhardwaj, John was blindsided to learn that he had stage 4 lung cancer.

He appreciated Dr. Bhardwaj's candor and sincerity.  John says, "He told me that my cancer is not curable, but we can treat it and he can keep me going for a long time." John adds that he and Dr. Bhardwaj discussed how the same chemotherapies offered at leading cancer centers are available at Good Samaritan.

The Grassos say that the care they receive from Dr. Bhardwaj and his staff is different from their experience in the city. "Doctors and nurses in the oncology field should come here to The Bobbi Lewis Cancer Program to learn how patients should be treated," John says. "When I'm getting my chemo, Dr. Bhardwaj and the nurses are right there with me. They go above and beyond and they're just fantastic." John adds that Dr. Bhardwaj and his staff make him feel so comfortable. When he goes in for chemo, he doesn't feel a sense of dread. He doesn't even think of himself as being sick.

John is feeling well. His last PET scan shows that the biggest of his lesions, which had been three centimeters, is not visible now.

"With Dr. Bhardwaj, you are getting a great doctor and crew. They pull together for you; they care about you and they're there for you," says John. 

Sabina adds, "When I saw how John's care was handled, I realized how much more personalized it was than what I had received in the city. Dr. Bhardwaj's staff is wholesome and caring." 

She also expresses positive sentiments toward Good Samaritan overall. "We've been to the Emergency Department many times. Each time, we're welcomed with warm smiles. The staff is calm and competent. And, when my stepdaughter recently gave birth here, the nurses were phenomenal." Sabina also notes that they've been to other area hospitals, and there's something special and different about Good Samaritan. 

Reflecting on their experiences over recent years, Sabina talks about how she and John find great comfort in prayer. "I pray a lot and it really helps. I feel a sense of calm," she says. 

John says that he appreciates life a lot more now than in the past. "I look forward to doing things that before I just did without thinking. Little things have more meaning, like seeing my grandson turn two. I didn't think I would get to see that happen."

A bit more about John and Sabina

Now retired, Sabina has the freedom to spend time with their grandchildren. They range in age from one to 18 years. She also enjoys window shopping, visiting the Suffern Library and reading. Her favorites are the "Twilight Saga", "The Notebook" and "The Holiday."

John is a surf fisherman. "He loves to go to the Jersey Shore with the grandchildren and then come home with nothing," jokes Sabina.

He's also Mr. Fix-It. "A day doesn't go by without one of the kids calling to ask John to fix something for them," says Sabina. He is proficient in carpentry, electrical work and plumbing. 

John loves to cook, too. His specialty is Italian food, especially meatballs, pasta and chicken parmesan. 

Looking ahead, Sabina has her sights on summer at Beach Haven. "I love the serenity of being there," she says. "I'm looking forward to sending John off fishing before dawn and spending the afternoons watching the kids play in the sun."

John is all for going to the shore, but he also has something else on his wish list, "I'd love to have a great grandchild; I just would love to see that."