Fayetteville, Ga. (November 26, 2012) – Fayetteville resident and retired Military Police Corps officer Tom Hogan is no stranger to intense situations. In fact, this army veteran is an expert at maintaining calm in the midst of chaos. In June 2012, Hogan embarked on his toughest battle yet, against the leading cause of cancer death among men and women: lung cancer.
It was the morning of Hogan’s 63rd birthday – June 27 – when Indumathi Bendi, M.D. of Piedmont Physicians Group in Atlanta called with the news. The results of Hogan’s Complete Blood Count (CBC) test were in, showing his Lipase count was abnormally high. Dr. Bendi told Hogan to get to the emergency room at Piedmont Fayette Hospital for further evaluation.
Hogan began his battery of tests with an ultrasound screening but results were inconclusive. Then, he had a Computerized Tomography scan (commonly known as a CT scan), which revealed a tumor in Hogan’s left lung and many smaller tumors throughout his liver. Next, doctors performed a liver biopsy, all the while explaining to Hogan what each test was, what they entailed, and what information the tests could provide.
“Medical science sometimes underestimates the therapeutic value of a smile, a name and an explanation of what is being done to you and why,” said Hogan. “I didn’t realize how important this connection would be until then.”
By 6 p.m., Hogan was meeting with Jonathan Bender, M.D. of Peachtree Hematology Oncology Consultants, located on the Piedmont Fayette Hospital campus. Dr. Bender told Hogan he had Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC), a cancer that spreads rapidly, and is rarely cured with the removal of a tumor. The overall survival rate for this aggressive form of lung cancer is less than five percent.
Dr. Bender recommended Hogan start chemotherapy. Hogan, who refused to let his poor prognosis bring him down, let his military survival instinct take over and asked, “When do we get started?”
Now, Hogan finds himself regularly fighting the disease in rather unusual ways, outside the realm of traditional medicine. This Halloween, a masked man wearing a Superman costume arrived at Piedmont Fayette’s Cancer Center, ready to take on cancer and inspiring others to do so with him. The masked man was Hogan himself.
“If someone told me five months ago I was going to have this disease and be positive about it, I would have said ‘no way,’” said Hogan. “My experience taught me something I’ve carried with me throughout my journey: the power of a smile and communication. I know that I matter to everyone here.”
Lung cancer accounts for about 14% of all new cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. This year, about 226,160 people will be diagnosed and 160,340 people will die of this aggressive disease in the United States. Usually, symptoms do not appear until the disease reaches an advanced, un-curable stage. Hogan’s only symptoms were feeling fatigued and an increasing loss of appetite over a two or three week period before he went to see his doctor.
“Serious conditions don’t necessarily make you feel seriously ill,” said Hogan. “Don’t ignore your body telling you something isn’t quite right.
For more information on lung cancer and treatment options at Piedmont Fayette, visit piedmontfayette.org.