With An Entire Village Behind Her, Linda Beats Colorectal Cancer

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Left to right: J. Scott Thomas, MD, Linda Frick, Randall Smith, MD

It can take a village to raise a child, and it can take a village to care for a patient. But for one lady diagnosed with colorectal cancer twice in five years, it took the entire scope of the Scott & White community.

Mrs. Linda Frick laughs saying her medical care, “Took the whole village and then some more!”

Linda was in her early 60s when her primary care doctor suggested she get a routine colonoscopy. David Havemann, MD has been Linda’s primary care physician for several years, and knew that colon cancer ran in her family.

Gastroenterologist Andrejs Avots-Avotins, MD, PhD , a longtime family friend, performed the routine colonoscopy and found a lesion on the left side.

“He came in and looked like he had swallowed a snake,” said Linda. “He was really agonizing over it.”

Linda saw colorectal surgeon J.Scott Thomas, MD, FACS  and the surgery was scheduled for the removal of the Stage I colorectal cancer, following the pathology report.

The outlook was positive, as Linda was sent to recover in the hospital. However, Linda’s body did not respond well, and she ended up with a wound infection that was the beginning of a long road.

Battling Beside Family –“If you mention my name, they all know me!”

Linda battled infectious process of the wound for over a year. She would come to the hospital about three times every week. She grew close to her caretakers who helped change out her dressings.

“Each one of them became my personal friend,” says Linda. “All of them were caring and supportive.”

Linda saw the nurses on a regular basis, and truly connected with them on a special level.

“Oh my goodness, the nurses were remarkable!” says Linda. “I just can’t praise them enough. I got to know them, and they got to know me. I felt like they were really part of my family.”

Thankfully, Linda’s husband, Bill, was able to relieve the stress of everyday hospital visits. Bill is a retired oral-maxillofacial surgeonand with his medical experience, he was able to change his wife’s dressings twice a day.

“Without his support I don’t know what I would have done,” says Linda. “I gave him a plaque that says my hero because that’s what he really is. My husband was the cheerleader all along the way.”

Smiling Despite Setbacks –“I didn’t let it get the best of me.”

After a year of treating the infection, Linda then had to fight another series of battles.

The doctors found a hernia, which was surgically repaired and treated by Randall W. Smith, MD FACS. He worked closely with Linda with follow-up visits to make sure it healed properly.

“At that point, I was so relieved it was finally coming to an end,” says Linda.

Little did she know that despite two consecutive years of clean colonoscopy reports, another much larger cancer lesion would appear on the opposite side.

“I’m kind of a Pollyanna positive thinker,” says Linda. “I generally look on the positive side of things. I didn’t let it get the best of me.”

This time with a Stage III diagnosis, Linda worked with Scott & White oncologist Lucas Wong, MD for careful chemotherapy treatment after Dr. Smith and Dr. Thomas performed her cancer surgery.

Dr. Wong said that Linda was a unique case because of her open wound drainage. They worked attentively to manage her care in the pivotal timeframe vital to fighting cancer.

“She is a wonderful person and was an honor to take care of,” says Dr. Wong. “She is very intelligent and had done her homework. We tell our patients the better you understand your disease, the easier it is to feel like you’re in control.”

However, there was still more bad news ahead. Following the surgery, an infectious process developed in the mesh that was used in the hernia repair.

Even more, they found a blood clot in her lung from her post-chemo CAT scan, which could have been attributed to the chemotherapy or the port. Oncologist Kathleen G. Halka, MD oversaw Linda’s progress and her loving husband helped administer shots to help with the blood clotting. Shots were administered sometimes twice daily for five months before the clot finally cleared up.

“I respect the team, because I knew that they wanted me to get well,” says Linda. “They all communicated with each other and it was fantastic.  I’ve had this relationship with them for over five years and they’ve been remarkable.”

Dr. Wong pointed out that seeing multiple specialists in one location is something people don’t seem to appreciate. If Linda had received care in a larger city, she would have had to spend all day driving in between specialists, rather than visiting with all her doctors in one location for an hour or two.

Jumping over the final hurdle was helping Linda beat the infection once and for all. The mesh that was used in Linda’s previous treatment continued to drain and she needed to have another surgery to replace the old mesh with the new in her abdomen.

She praises Dr. Smith and Dr. Thomas, especially for putting up with her sense of humor over the years. She would play funny tricks on them before surgery. Once, around Halloween, she even hid a cackling witch under a sheet to scare them. “The way you get through it, you have to have a little humor through it all,” says Linda.

“There were several times where I thought our house of cards would collapse…It was a real testament to the strength of the human spirit.”–Dr. Smith

“There were several times where I thought our house of cards would collapse but Linda willed herself through all the treatments,” says Dr. Smith. “It was a real testament to the strength of the human spirit. I don’t think I could have personally done it.”

The last time Linda saw Dr. Smith she remembers saying, “You said it would all stop and it DID!” Relieved and moving forward, Bill and Linda are back doing what they love.

They’re playing golf and skiing, serving in their church and community, and traveling. To celebrate the end of constant checkups and hospital visits, they went overseas and enjoyed a renewed sense of freedom.

Now liberated from bandages and doctor visits, Linda says, “I just take it a day at a time.”

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