Pat, Lung Cancer Survivor

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Making the journey together

It’s terrible to hear you only have two months to live. It’s even more devastating when you’re alone in a new town, with no family or friends to fall back on. But Patrick Sudduth found the support he needs in the Helen G. Nassif Community Cancer Center.

Sudduth has moved around the U.S. a lot in his 56 years. He grew up in Detroit, where he graduated from high school (and fell in love with the Detroit Tigers). Sudduth could have gone to college then, but turned to construction work instead. “I’m the black sheep in my family,” he says with a grin.

From Michigan, Sudduth moved on, eventually landing in North Carolina in 2012. That spring he fainted on the job and woke up in a hospital, where a doctor told him a CT scan revealed suspicious nodules in his lung. The nodules were too small to biopsy, but the doctor advised Sudduth to “keep an eye on them.”

From there, it was on to California. Then in the fall of 2013, Sudduth got a call from an old friend. The friend was living in Iowa but his health was failing. He asked Sudduth to come and help him.

That’s how Sudduth came to be in Cedar Rapids in March 2014 when he began experiencing severe headaches. At His Hands Free Medical Clinic, Sudduth was diagnosed with cluster headaches. Then he told the doctor about the lung nodules from 2012. Soon Sudduth was referred to J. David Cowden, MD, a pulmonologist with Respiratory & Critical Care Associates.

Dr. Cowden arranged for a battery of tests, including a PET scan, a bronchoscopy (a scope inserted through the nose to reach the lungs), a colonoscopy and a lung biopsy.

Next Dr. Cowden and Emi Chapman, care coordinator at the Community Cancer Center, met with Sudduth to explain the results. Sudduth learned he had colon cancer that had spread to his lungs. He was told he might have just weeks to live.

“I felt like I was hit over the head with a shovel,” says Sudduth. “I was in a dark place.”

But Sudduth’s care team was determined to help him in every way they could. Sudduth says “they helped me crawl out” of that dark place.

Pat-EmiFirst among the people who helped was Chapman. As a care coordinator, Chapman’s role is to support cancer patients and their loved ones from diagnosis through treatment and beyond. From the very beginning of Sudduth’s cancer journey, Chapman has been there for him.

“Pat and I talk a lot,” explains Chapman. “It’s important for him to know there is someone at the other end of the line when he calls.”

Sudduth’s team put together a comprehensive treatment plan. Thomas Warren, MD, medical oncologist with Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa, recommended a regimen of oral and infusion chemotherapy to slow the cancer’s progression. And Mary Beth Peiffer, nutritionist at the Community Cancer Center, suggested diet changes that helped Sudduth get the nutrition he needed throughout chemotherapy.

Because Sudduth is no longer able to work, finances are a problem. Social worker Nancy Hagensick helped him apply for Medicaid and St. Luke’s Foundation Spirit Fund. The Spirit Fund provided Sudduth with a gas card to help with his transportation needs.

The treatment Sudduth received has slowed his cancer and given him a decent quality of life in the time he has left. Once he thought he might have just two months to live. Now it’s been almost a year.

Along the way, Sudduth discovered he was not on this journey alone. From the very beginning, he has had the support of the people at the Community Cancer Center—once strangers, now friends.

“It’s because of everyone here,” says Sudduth. “Especially Emi. She keeps me going.”

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