TOM BENNETT: GRATEFUL WARRIOR

Dangerously Misdiagnosed

Written By Debra Gelbart
October 2019

Diagnosed: April 2017
Status: No Tumor Enlargement

Thankfully Tom Bennett Got A Second Opinion

On New Year’s Eve of 2017 at a community hospital near his home in Arnold, Maryland, Tom Bennett was told by three physicians that his CT scan was normal. After four months of back pain, five weeks of intense gastrointestinal symptoms and a 25-pound weight loss (that none of the doctors he saw were able to diagnose), he sent the scan to his son, an abdominal radiologist in another state. Nothing could have prepared Tom and his wife Pam for what his son determined to be the problem: Pancreatic Cancer. Likely stage 4.

Knowing that treatment for this disease is tough to endure, Tom’s son found what he thought was the best clinical trial at HonorHealth Research Institute in Scottsdale. On January 29, 2018—less than a month later —Tom and Pam arrived in Arizona. Tom began treatment with what’s called the Grand Slam—intravenous administration of five medications: gemcitabine, Abraxane, cisplatin, paricalcitol (a version of activated Vitamin D). and an immunotherapy drug called nivolumab (Opdivo).

Read More About The Clinical Trial at NIH

Gratitude for Encouraging Results

Tom received treatment for nearly six and a half months. His tumor marker value dropped rapidly, but by mid-August the negative toll of the chemotherapy on his body meant it was time to stop. He and Pam returned to Maryland so he could recuperate.

In April 2019 the marker began rising again and the tumor looked bigger on imaging scans. This time, rather than more chemo, Tom received Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) closer to his home at Johns Hopkins. He completed that treatment in August and on September 18, 2019, he received the good news that his follow-up scan showed no enlargement of the tumor.

“Throughout this hard journey, Pam and I have seen God’s direction and care every step of the way,” Tom said. “We are overwhelmed by how He is apparently using the prayers of our family and friends. Honor Health has been in the forefront of this journey. Their staff of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, infusion and support staff are the very best. I’m glad to be alive and I’m blessed to have more time with my dear family and friends. This whole experience makes one focus on what is really important in life—God, family and the people around you.”

Tom’s Advice For Anyone Experiencing Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

Tom, 71, is adamant that anyone with “symptoms like mine that are persistent and unresolved needs to get a second (or third) opinion until you get answers. If you are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer it is vital you get a second opinion on treatment from a medical center with specialists in pancreatic cancer like Honor Health and consider a clinical trial, since conventional treatment is not often effective.”

Connecting With The Seena Magowitz Foundation

Tom and Pam were invited by Honor Health to attend their first Seena Magowitz Foundation event August of 2018 in Boston and again in November of 2019 in Phoenix. They appreciated Roger Magowitz’s attention to detail that made this event so successful. “We were especially encouraged by Dr. Daniel Von Hoff’s talk to pancreatic cancer warriors (known as ‘Dan’s Diamonds’),” Tom said. “Dr Von Hoff’s passion and dedication to find new treatments for pancreatic cancer and his knowledge of what’s promising on the horizon gives us hope.”

It was remarkable, Tom added, “to be a part of Roger’s determined efforts to conquer this terrible disease. His heart to help people with pancreatic cancer is so evident in all he does. We feel blessed to have connected with the Seena Magowitz Foundation. “Roger and the Foundation have treated us like royalty.”

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