When 80-year-old Charles Thomas was diagnosed with both esophageal cancer and a mass on his adrenal gland, his doctors weren’t sure what to recommend. His age meant he wasn’t an ideal candidate for certain standard treatments for esophageal cancer, one of the deadliest cancers whose incidence has been on the rise in the U.S. in recent years.
Thomas began making the trip from his home in Sheffield in the southern Berkshires, where he and his wife sell grandfather clocks, to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield to receive care from Dr. Richard Wait, chair of Surgery, and Dr. Gary Hochheiser, chief of Thoracic Surgery.
“Ten years ago we might have told him he wasn’t a candidate for surgery and all we could offer him is chemotherapy and radiation. Today, with surgery, he has a much better chance at a cure,” says Hochheiser.
Hochheiser and Wait collaborated on Thomas’ care, streamlining appointments to ensure he had to make as few trips as possible, and worked with his doctors at home to review his care and treatment plan.
After determining his adrenal lesion was benign and not related to his esophageal cancer, doctors determined it was stable and are keeping an eye on it. Since Thomas’ cancer was caught in the early stages, he was able to undergo a minimally invasive esophagectomy. As opposed to earlier forms of esophageal surgery, this procedure involves less blood loss and less pain from surgery, and allows patients to become active more quickly, which helps to prevent complications.
“He came to the right place,” says Hochheiser. “We’ve performed many of these procedures since we started about seven years ago. We were doing them before the larger centers in the Boston area.”
Thomas was out of the hospital quickly and even better, was able to return to eating regularly very quickly. He did not require chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Back to the Berkshires
“Mr. Thomas did fabulously well with no hitches, and is already back to most of his everyday activities,” says Hochheiser.
“They took good care of me,” Thomas acknowledges. “Not just any one person – everyone at Baystate. The doctors explained everything to us, and they kept in touch with my doctors here at home so everyone had the information they needed.”
Today, Thomas is back at the family business in Sheffield. “I’m still here,” he says with a laugh. “And I’m feeling pretty good.”