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Cancer survivor names his child after the doctor who saved him

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MADISON, Wis. — What’s in a name? For the St. Peter family, the answer is gratitude.

The family welcomed their third child in August, naming her Sylvie Baskaya Joslin St. Peter. For them, the name “Baskaya” bears deep significance.

After a late-night seizure in 2018, doctors discovered that Joe St. Peter had a golfball-sized tumor in his brain. After planning for brain surgery, Dr. Mustafa Baskaya was able to fully remove the mass. After a few days in the UW Rehabilitation hospital, testing determined that the tumor was cancerous- St. Peter was diagnosed with a grade-3 astrocytoma.

“That day was pretty blurry for me,” said St. Peter. “It was like drinking from a firehose there were just so many things going on.”

Post-surgery, St. Peter spent months in physical therapy, as well as receiving chemotherapy. The left side of his body wasn’t functioning well, and he and his family were concerned that he wouldn’t regain his former ability to move.

St. Peter’s wife, Bryce St. Peter remembers the time as one of uncertainty and fear. “That’s pretty terrifying when you’re unfamiliar with brain injuries,” she said. “You don’t know, like, ‘is this always the way it’s going to be?’”

It was Dr. Baskaya who kept the family hopeful, though.

“ I kept trying to reassure him as best I could,” continued St. Peter. “But it wasn’t until Bashkaya came in and was just very confident that this was what he expected would happen, he was going to better, it was not going to be permanent.”

It was the doctor’s confidence that inspired them. More hope was to come, though. The St. Peters had been trying to have a second child at the time of Mr. St. Peter’s surgery, and despite the possibility that chemotherapy had rendered him infertile, they were able to conceive.

“At that point it was like we felt really confident in what was happening in our lives,” said Mrs. St. Peter.

The couple went on to add one more baby to the family in August of 2021, and they knew at that time they wanted to honor Dr.Baskaya somehow.

“We knew that if we named her Baskaya that it would be asymbol of our hope for our future and everything we’ve been through together as a couple,” said Mrs. St. Peter.

Dr.Baskaya was able to meet the baby, and he says he’s honored.

“Contributing that little bit by treating that tumor is a big, big, big gift to me,” he said. “I got very emotional.”

The St. Peters and Dr.Baskaya alike continue to acknowledge the work of the entire team of doctors and nurses who assisted in Mr. St. Peter’s surgery and recovery.

“It wasn’t just Baskaya at the hospital it was a whole team of doctors and nurses” said Mr. St. Peter. “We can’t name our daughter ‘UW Hospital Baskaya.”

“This is a team work,” added Dr. Baskaya. “Without the team we cannot achieve these good results”

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