A Mother and her Two Daughters

28 April 2010

The Wise Men and Women of UAMS

If I had hair, it would still be standing on end.  For a cancer patient like me, this is the kind of story that makes you cry tears of joy that continues to provide hope.

This morning my friend Kate sent me an email that was forwarded to her.  The email was originally sent by a man who lives here in Little Rock.  His name is Robby, a well-known lawyer here in town.  This is his story. 

Several weeks ago, Robby left the renowned Mayo Clinic with the verdict of terminal, incurable and untreatable cancer – esophageal cancer that had metastasized to the lymph system, the general circulatory system and was showing signs that it had also spread to the adrenal nodes, if not other locations too.  Mayo categorized his treatment as Palliative Care.  For those not familiar with this level of treatment, it’s the very last verdict you want to hear.  It’s essentially hospice care, pain management until death with no plan for curing, delaying or reversing the disease.  Mayo told Robby that he might have six months to live. 

I’m uncertain about the course of events; however, this is where UAMS and three brilliant physicians enter the picture, now affectionately referred to by Robby as The Three Wise Men – Doctors James Suen, Jose Penagaricano and Issam Makhoul. 

Robby was presented with a promise by this team of Wise Men that he says he couldn’t refuse.  The promise was this:  If you will leave the Mayo Clinic and move back to Little Rock and exactly follow our plan of treatment, we will assure you years of life. 

The option was simple:  dying within six months or years of life just by changing institutions?  

Robby returned to Little Rock almost four weeks ago.  He says that from the minute he stepped into UAMS, he was overwhelmed with the Can Do spirit of this medical team of winners – simply a positive attitude of high performance.  

While battling “incurable” and metastasized esophageal cancer hasn’t been the easiest fight of his life, it has been a much better fight than sitting in pain management waiting to die.
Yesterday Dr. Makhoul shared with Robby his pathology report for his first few weeks of treatment.  According to the good doctor, Robby’s red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, bone marrow and all other detectable blood tests indicate that he is ABOVE NORMAL and in good health.  In other words, the blood results are not that of a dying man, as Mayo had left it.  Instead, his treatment is exceeding every expectation by quantum numbers.  Even Dr. Makhoul was astonished telling Robby that he had never seen such progress in a person experiencing the last and final stages of terminal cancer.

As Robby says, “Make no mistake, I am still sick.  I still have a tumor around my esophagus, I still have swollen lymph glands, and I am still in treatment and will be so for 17 more weeks.  But what this means is very important.  It means that I have in place the tools to cure this disease.”

Way to go UAMS!  Again, I say, if you have to have the battle of cancer, you couldn’t be in a better place than in Arkansas.  UAMS is truly a place where medical professionals visualize a world without a cancer.  This story warms my heart, gives me hope, assures me that I have the right medical team right here at home working for me! 

Today is Robby’s birthday.  And to him I say, “Happy Birthday and Congratulations Robby!  Keep fighting the tough fight, keep up your good work!  Me and you and UAMS -- we're going to make life happen."  


And a P.S. for friends and family:  In case you forgot, Dr. Issam Makhoul is also my oncologist.  Lucky me, huh?  


  1. What a wonderful story! I'm so happy for him, good for him, makes me all weepy.


Web Statistics