As a school custodian, Arnie Lamp is no stranger to tackling life’s messes. However, he had no idea that he had a serious mess growing inside him. For several years, Arnie’s family medicine physician, Dr. Seann Atkinson, had been reminding Arnie he needed to get a screening colonoscopy. Usually recommended for anyone turning 50—unless they have certain risk factors and need to be screened earlier—Arnie had put it off for 16 years. He was always just too busy and hated to miss work; with no symptoms and no family history, it just did not seem that important. Now, at age 66, he didn’t really have a reason he could not get the colonoscopy, so he agreed to the procedure. Dr. Atkinson referred Arnie to Dr. Chad McCance, general surgeon, for the test.
Less than two weeks and one colon prep later (which Arnie wants you to know really isn’t as bad as people make it sound), Arnie went in for the colonoscopy. And that is when he learned he really had pushed it off for a little too long. Dr. McCance found a tumor during the exam. While they would have to wait for biopsy results to be sure, Arnie expected it would be cancer. “I smoked for a lot of years and didn’t take very good care of myself,” he explained. “It wasn’t a surprise to me.”
When he shared the biopsy results with Arnie, Stage 2B colon cancer, Dr. McCance gave him a choice. Dr. McCance could remove the tumor here with a traditional surgical approach or he could refer Arnie to Omaha where it could be done laparoscopically, which would mean a much smaller incision. Arnie did not hesitate—he would have it done here. “If he’s going to have me open that wide, he can really see what’s going on!” Arnie really appreciated when Jo, Dr. McCance’s nurse, offered to put him in touch with a man who had gone through treatment for the same type of cancer a few years earlier. “We weren’t home 5 minutes and he calls already. We had a nice talk and it was reassuring to both of us. It answered a lot of questions for us.”
Not only was the surgery done at Cass Health, but so was all of the preoperative testing, including a CT scan. “I’m here at home, so Barb didn’t have to find a way over to Omaha. Everything was handy and good quality care at home—I don’t think I could have done any better in Omaha, personally.”
One possible complication was that Dr. McCance was leaving in five days to be out of the office for a couple of weeks, but he performed the colon resection before he left town. “We really appreciated that he fit me in his schedule before he left. That would have been a long, stressful wait if he hadn’t squeezed me in.” The entire process, from his referral for a colonoscopy to being home, to diagnosis, to being home after his surgery took less than one month.
Arnie’s surgery went well and Dr. McCance was able to remove the entire tumor. Arnie was able then to transfer his care to one of the visiting oncology physicians who comes to Cass Health Specialty Clinic regularly, Dr. Stacey Parker. “Dr. Parker said my chances of recurrence were very similar with or without chemo, so I decided not to have any chemotherapy,” Arnie said. “She comes here a couple times every month so it’s very convenient for me to have regular check-ups with her to make sure nothing else develops.”
Arnie was very happy that he could receive all of his care—from before he even knew he had cancer, to the diagnosis and surgery and all of his ongoing follow-up care and monitoring—right here at home. “All the staff were just great! And they still are. I’ll see them in the hospital when I am there or even around town and they always say hi. They just seem like genuinely good people, always very professional but know when to have a little fun, too!”
“I did everything they told me to do because I really wanted to get back to work and get on with life. I made some changes in my diet and followed the rehab instructions, and I honestly feel better now than I have for a long time. I hadn’t really realized that I wasn’t feeling as well as I should before the colonoscopy.”
Arnie did not say much about his illness and surgery at the time, but he is happy to share his story now. “I didn’t need to make a big deal about it, but if I can help somebody else through this, I’m all for that.”
Arnie is back at school and enjoying family time with his wife, kids and grandchildren. “I’m lucky – I know I’m lucky. I was glad we have Dr. McCance and everyone who was involved; the nurses were just great. My care was fantastic—I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else!”
Are you due for your colonoscopy? Talk to your primary care provider today, or call AMC Surgery Clinic at 712-243-7535.