Discovering some of the nation’s most innovative and successful care
is near home.
For Dan Mabbott, 65, St. Jude Medical Center was something he drove past
on his way to see his doctor at the St. Jude Medical Plaza. “I was
happy the hospital was here, I just didn’t think I’d need
it,” explains the retired mechanic.
But then a routine X-ray of his shoulder revealed a diagnosis the nonsmoker
never expected: stage 4 lung cancer which had spread to his ribs, hip
and spine. A diagnosis that comes with a less than 5 percent survival rate.
The Whittier resident would ultimately have a long, hard-to-fill wish list:
a top-quality oncologist familiar with new breakthroughs in care, a thoracic
surgeon (one of a handful in the state) with the skill to successfully
perform robotic lung surgery, an orthopedic surgeon experienced in minimally-invasive
hip replacement, and an expert neurosurgeon to preserve his spine. Also
on the list: a cutting-edge clinical trial program that could offer him
access to today’s most innovative and aggressive therapies.
All of which he found at St. Jude Medical Center, one of the very few hospitals
in the nation capable of offering the diverse and sophisticated level
of care he needed.
“At every step, there was another doctor at the top of their field
ready to help,” he explains. “It was an amazing experience,
not just because of the skill, but because of the genuine compassion and
commitment. From the first moment, it was like I was their only patient.”
Sanjay Sharma, MD, a highly respected board-certified oncologist, overseeing each step of
his care, Dan began a series of advanced immunotherapies and chemotherapies
— some experimental — to reduce the size of the tumors. State-of-the-art
robotic surgery was used to remove the tumor in his lung, a surgery performed by
Daniel Oh, MD, a national expert in transforming lung cancer surgery and patient outcomes
through minimally-invasive techniques.
Young Lee, MD, board-certified and highly-skilled in radiation oncology, provided stereotactic
radiation therapy, a newer and more precise form of radiation provided
scalpel-like precision in eradicating the tumors near his spine. Minimally-invasive
surgery to replace his hip joint — and remove the bone damaged by
cancer — was performed by
Karen Evensen, MD, a board-certified orthopedic expert who specializes in hip replacement.
Lars Anker, MD, an experienced board-certified neurosurgeon, provided evaluation and
treatment of his spine.
It was a powerhouse of expertise, technology and compassion that created
the desired result. Dan’s cancer has been decimated and he is back
to babysitting his grandchildren and taking 400-mile trips on his motorcycle
“We put together an aggressive, creative and multidisciplinary approach
to achieve a truly remarkable outcome for Dan and his family,” explains
Dr. Sharma, who says Dan’s care involved breakthroughs in areas
from surgery to radiation oncology to immunology. “His case reflects
the commitment and expertise that is allowing us to redefine ‘untreatable.'"
Both Dan and his wife, Sally, agree that the level of care he received
was beyond all their expectations. But there are a few more minor things
they disagree on: Sally says his faith is stronger now, but Dan says it
was already strong — he just learned to lean on God a little more.
Sally believes he came out of the experience more compassionate, but Dan
says it’s not that he’s more compassionate — he just
stopped letting a lack of time or inconvenience get in the way. “God
used some amazing doctors and you definitely live your life a little differently
after being blessed like that,” he says.
Today, Dan remains on a novel, biologic therapy to maintain the dramatic
decline of his disease and to control any smaller tumors that may appear
in the future. But he leaves the big picture in God’s hands —
and all the details in Dr. Sharma’s hands — and he focuses
on a life that is once again filled with family, church, friends —
“Dan’s care was simply unbelievable and because of it, he has
stepped back into his life,” explains Sally, who was at Dan’s
side for every moment. “When someone mentions moving out of the
area, my response is always the same: I’m not moving anywhere that
takes us away from this hospital. St. Jude is where we belong.”
To learn more about the
St. Jude Crosson Cancer Institute, please call (714) 446-5847. To find a St. Joseph Health physician, use our