Ask anyone to name their least favorite medical procedure, and you will
likely hear: “Colonoscopy.”
Linda Foster certainly felt that way. Put off by the preparation process,
she avoided having the important screening until age 73. That’s
a good 20 years past the age recommended for a first colonoscopy.
Ms. Foster’s moment of truth arrived when she accompanied her husband,
Donny, to a doctor’s appointment to schedule his colonoscopy. “He
told Dr. Whitehead that I’d never had one,” she says. “I
later told Donny, ‘Thanks for throwing me under the bus!’
But by doing that, he actually saved my life.”
David C. Whitehead, M.D., MPH, scheduled her colonoscopy for the following Friday. A board-certified
gastroenterologist and hepatologist at Southeast Georgia Physician Associates–Gastroenterology, Dr. Whitehead is also vice chief of the Health System’s Brunswick
Campus Department of Medicine.
The shocking truth
It’s a good thing Dr. Whitehead convinced Ms. Foster to have a colonoscopy
— the procedure revealed a large cancerous growth in her colon,
even though she had only experienced pain for about three months.
Dr. Whitehead gave the news to Ms. Foster after she awakened from anesthesia.
“I felt complete shock and devastation,” she says.
The only symptom Ms. Foster had experienced before her colonoscopy was
stomach pain after eating. Considering the size of her tumor, Dr. Whitehead
told Ms. Foster it would have taken three years for her cancer to grow
“I’ve always heard colon cancer is a silent killer, and now
I believe it,” says Mr. Foster.
A decisive moment
Things moved fast after the diagnosis. Dr. Whitehead immediately assembled
a health care team that included medical oncologist
Antonio Moran Jr., M.D., FACP,
Southeast Georgia Physician Associates–Hematology & Oncology, and general surgeon
Stephen F. Kitchen, M.D., FACS, a board-certified private practice surgeon.
“We received a call from Dr. Kitchen on Sunday morning telling us
the surgery was scheduled for Monday morning,” says Ms. Foster.
“He said, ‘Pack your bag, and go there today.’”
Dr. Kitchen arrived shortly after she settled into her hospital room. “He
spent at least 30 minutes with us, reviewing the procedure. He was so
thorough,” she says.
A second chance
By Monday evening, Ms. Foster’s surgery was complete. Dr. Moran visited
her in the hospital, ordering tests to confirm her cancer was thoroughly
removed. Dr. Whitehead also checked in on her.
“I couldn’t have asked for better physicians and nurses. I’m
very comfortable with my doctors and my hospital,” she says. “These
three doctors are my ‘dream team,’ and I would never consider
using anyone else.”
Mr. Foster concurs: “They showed a phenomenal level of professionalism.
They are the best of the best. There’s no point to go anywhere else.”
He so appreciated his wife’s care that he delivered a cake to the
doctors and nurses afterward. It’s easy to understand their gratitude.
Thanks to her health care team, Ms. Foster is now cancer-free.
“You don’t realize how fragile life is until they say, ‘You’ve
got cancer,’” she says. “I have a whole new outlook
on life. Believe me, I’ll be back in a year for another colonoscopy.”
Asked what advice she would offer others dreading the procedure, Ms. Foster
replies: “Please don’t hesitate to have a colonoscopy. It
could very well save your life.”