Sutter Cancer Centers
Tommye - The Value of Preventive Care
Since she retired from the post office in 2000 after 38 years, Tommye Isom has enjoyed spending time with her husband of 52 years and their two sons and three grandchildren, as well as gardening at her Benicia home. She’s always received regular check-ups and had a clean bill of health, so it was troubling when she ended up in the Emergency Room at the age of 77 with what she thought might be an acid reflux attack or a heart problem.
It turned out that her self-diagnosis was not correct, but emergency blood tests showed Tommye to be extremely anemic and in need of a transfusion right away. Once the immediate danger had passed, she visited her primary care physician, who was baffled at this turn of events. He suggested she see a gastroenterologist, the first of many specialists to seek the root cause for Tommye’s anemia…which ended up being cancer.
A colonoscopy found a mass the size of a quarter, necessitating surgery followed by chemotherapy. While Tommye was initially bitter about the diagnosis, it didn’t take her long to realize how grateful she was that the tumor was found early.
“Sometimes it seemed like I was seeing a specialist every other day, but I couldn’t have had a more dedicated group of doctors,” Tommye says. “I’d never had such excellent medical care. I wouldn’t have expected better treatment if I was royalty.”
“When you get to be a certain age,” she continues, “sometimes doctors seem less enthusiastic about doing all they can for you, but that certainly wasn’t the case with my team.”
Tommye singles out her primary care doctor, Dr. Peter Navolanic, as being especially diligent and caring, noting he took time from his busy schedule to check in with her each of the seven days she spent in the hospital following surgery. Other physicians who earned her respect are Dr. Eric Lee, who treated her in the ER; Dr. Lawrence Chan, her gastroenterologist; Dr. Behrouz Jamnani, her surgeon; and Dr. Yelena Krijanovski, her oncologist.
Tommye, the 13th child in a family of 15, has just two siblings left, so she has more experience than she would care for in losing loved ones. She feels blessed that her life was saved due to the efforts of some great doctors, and she even looks forward to her biweekly infusions at the Sutter Solano Cancer Center. She’s also become an even bigger proponent of preventive medicine.
“Whether you’re 21 or 75, you need to be on top of your health, even if you’re feeling well,” she said. “If I had waited to see a doctor until I had symptoms from my tumor, it probably would have been too late.”
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