Barry Thomas - Patient Story

“The collaborative approach Fox Chase doctors utilize offered me the best patient experience.”

— Barry Thomas

After losing his first wife to breast cancer, Barry Thomas was diagnosed with cancer twice. A patient at Fox Chase Cancer Center since 2003, he considers his team of doctors to be extraordinary. “I’ve had two surgeries, tests and scans, and follow ups, and I have attended support groups at Fox Chase for 13 years. Through these experiences I feel very confident at Fox Chase,” he says.

In 2003, Barry was leading an active life with a full-time sales job, golf and travel with his new wife, Cam. The first symptom he noticed was blood in his stool. Barry called his primary doctor who referred him to a gastroenterologist at a local hospital. Further testing revealed a mass on his esophagus. Barry was then referred to Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, about an hour from his home, where he learned the devastating news – he had esophageal cancer. After a round of chemotherapy and radiation therapy near his home, Fox Chase thoracic surgeon Melvyn Goldberg, MD, performed the complex surgery to remove his esophagus and reconstruct it by pulling the stomach up into the chest, so that Barry could eat normally again.

Following Dr. Goldberg’s retirement from Fox Chase, Barry was referred to the director of thoracic surgery at Fox Chase to take over his care.

“In 2014, after I turned 76, I started having a dull and consistent pain in my stomach. No matter what I ate, the pain was there,” admits Barry, who decided to get it checked out because he was so confident in the quality of care he had received.

Barry and his wife, Cam, enjoy traveling to Hawaii. (2008)Barry and his wife, Cam, enjoy traveling to Hawaii. (2008)

“I wasn’t taking any chances. I scheduled an appointment right away, and he ordered scans and tests. Then he told me I had a new stomach cancer,” recalls Barry, who was stunned. Fox Chase physicians collaborate as often as possible to ensure tailored treatment for each patient. Because of Barry’s delicate medical history and his newly diagnosed gastric condition,  Jeffrey M. Farma, MD, FACS, assisted with the surgery. Dr. Farma is a surgical oncologist at Fox Chase who specializes in treating patients with gastrointestinal cancers.

Barry golfing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.Barry golfing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.“I met Dr. Farma, and I was impressed with his kind demeanor. I could tell he was very capable and intelligent.”

In the spring 2014, Barry had a gastrectomy, which is surgery to remove the stomach. This involved operating once again in both his abdomen and in his chest to completely remove the stomach that was previously pulled up partially into the chest and attached to a remaining portion of his esophagus. Unfortunately, the majority of Barry's esophagus had been removed in 2003 when he had esophageal cancer.This complex procedure is called a colon interposition and allows the GI tract to be reconstructed so that function is retained. Fortunately for Barry, the cancer was confined to the stomach.

“Recovery was a bit more challenging than I had hoped,” admits Barry, who spent 16 days in the hospital. He got through it and in 2015 – one year later – he had resumed his enjoyable life. He and Cam golf almost every day, travel, dine out and spend time with their blended family, including nine grandchildren. “We enjoy summer vacations with our combined families that couldn’t be better.”

“When I think back, I am so grateful for the care they have provided through the years,” Barry shares. “I also am very grateful to Dr. Farma, the nurses and everyone along the way who assisted with my care at Fox Chase.”

By sharing his experience, Barry hopes to inspire other men to see a doctor when they notice changes, even subtle changes or symptoms. “Two bouts of cancer started with small symptoms. Don’t take a chance with your health. See a doctor you trust,” Barry suggests.

“The collaborative approach Fox Chase doctors utilize offered me the best patient experience,” shares Barry. “I feel that Fox Chase has world-renowned doctors who work together, learn from each other and offer patients unique treatment options that other hospitals don’t or can’t offer. When you are talking about your life, having options and the best care possible makes all the difference."

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