Some of the most life-changing phrases in the English language are those dreaded words, “You have cancer.” According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 34,000 Missourians heard these words from their doctor in 2013. While this number represents new cancer diagnoses for patients in Missouri, there can be no doubt that many thousands more family members and friends were also directly affected by those words.
Clinton resident, Thomas Knott and his wife, Denise were no different.
“With a diagnosis of cancer there is a lot to digest. It is a scary place to go. Emotionally you have to wrap your head around it. You have to make choices. And what I wrapped my head around was that I had to make the right choices. They needed to be well educated choices,” said Thomas Knott.
Knott was diagnosed with prostate cancer following a routine prostate exam.
“It was scary. I was scared for him. I just wanted to make sure that I was going to be supportive and know how to be supportive because I haven’t had to do that before,” said Denise Knott.
Knott began researching treatment options, standards of care, treatment facilities and doctors so that he could make the best informed decisions possible to improve his chances at successfully defeating the disease.
“The cancer treatment options are numerous. And there’s a lot of expense that is taken to advertise different cancer treatment centers. They may be Chicago, Tulsa, Houston, but the bottom line is what they are going to deliver you is the same thing you can get here in your own back yard,” said Thomas Knott.
Knott didn’t just research treatment options online. He made trips to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa and treatment centers in Missouri and Chicago as well.
“It’s awkward because you are courted by many of these hospitals and companies. You can go to Chicago and they will pick you up in a limousine. They will wine you and dine you. One thing I discovered, and something that I think would be important to know, is that many times you feel like a number in those places. What I did find is that the other places I went, we were jammed in rooms as sardines, and basically they are cancer clearing houses,” said Thomas Knott.
Knott understands, however, that there is more to cancer treatment than just having medications delivered and enduring tests. There is an emotional need that needs to be addressed as well.
“It is a very personal thing to have cancer; it is a very personal thing to deal with the thoughts of cancer. I discovered the Community Cancer Center at Fitzgibbon Hospital and the equipment you had and the standard of care that you deliver and found that it is a much more personal experience then I could receive in those places,” said Knott.
“After visiting with the doctors at Fitzgibbon Community Cancer Center I became very comfortable with the people there. Through the process I made a lot of friends. I felt like I was being treated by friends. I didn’t feel like I was just a number. Your physicians are very down to earth. They would sit and talk with you just as they were talking to a friend. Never did I feel rushed. It was a personal experience.”
That personal connection and the friendships Knott made certainly helped along the way as he received 45 radiation treatments at Fitzgibbon Hospital.
“Let me share this – your radiation therapist, Heather Bourbon, is a fantastic lady. She realized I liked pumpkin coffee, and made sure I always had pumpkin coffee ready for me in the morning. You are treated differently in the city than you are in the rural areas. Here you are treated, as for lack of better words, like a friend and family member,” said Knott.
The Fitzgibbon Community Cancer Center opened in October 2009 thanks to the donations of community members in Marshall and surrounding areas. Since its opening, more than 3,000 people have received treatment for more than 42 types of cancer.
“Many people from the community came to me and talked about receiving cancer treatment here in Marshall. The challenge was always the enormous cost to provide this service. The community and Fitzgibbon Hospital came together and raised 4.2 million dollars, enough to build and purchase equipment for the new, state-of-the-art, Community Cancer Center. It was truly a community-wide accomplishment,” said Ronald A. Ott, President and Chief Executive Officer of Fitzgibbon Hospital.
That state-of-the-art accomplishment was one of the things that caused Knott to drive from Clinton to receive his treatment.
“In my research I really became aware of the standard of care, the conventional radiation therapy that the Fitzgibbon Community Cancer Center delivers, and the fact that it was a new cancer center that was built and supported by the community in a rural setting,” said Knott.
“At Fitzgibbon Cancer Center I received the most excellent care that you can expect. I have been to some of the leading cancer treatment centers in the United States. But what do they have that you can’t get here? You don’t have to leave home for 10 or 11 weeks because you can get the same treatment in your back yard. This is where you can go home to dinner. You can see the same people that are going to treat you at the grocery store.”
To find out more about the Community Cancer Center at Fitzgibbon Hospital, visit www.fitzgibbon.org or call 831-3760.