Harvey Stuckley

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Rectal Cancer Treatment

Anorectal Cancer Patient Stories

Harvey Stuckley

More than a decade after cancer treatment, Harvey Stuckley celebrated his 90th birthday.

A second opinion at Fox Chase Cancer Center didn't just save Harvey Stuckley's life in 1999. His consultation with surgical oncologist, John P. Hoffman, MD, FACS, preserved both his quality of life and his dignity, a gift he's thankful for to this day.

Harvey's journey began with a routine colonoscopy at a local screening center near his New Holland home. Although he had no symptoms, the test revealed colorectal cancer. Without further consultation, the attending physician scheduled radical surgery for the following week - removal of the cancer by abdominoperineal resection (APR). The procedure, which has been around for many years, involves the creation of a permanent stoma - colostomy bag - taking away the patient's normal bowel function. Harvey, who was 79 at the time, was very upset by this news. He called his daughter Carol to share the news.

"We have to get a second opinion. We needed to go to Fox Chase."

"My father, who was very active at the time, was devastated by this news. He walks, swims and travels. I'm thinking, forget this - we have to get a second opinion," recalled Harvey's daughter Carol. An oncologist colleague suggested Carol take her father to Fox Chase Cancer Center. "It was more than an hour away, certainly not as convenient for my father as staying local," said Carol. "But was worth it. We needed to go to Fox Chase."

"Dr. Hoffman's manner was calm, empathetic and reassuring."

From the moment Carol met Dr. Hoffman, she was convinced he would make a profound difference in her father's life and future. "He noticed my dad's small hearing aid, and deliberately faced him when speaking, asking Dad to let him know if he had any difficulty hearing. Dr. Hoffman's manner was calm, empathetic and reassuring."

After a physical exam, CT and PET scan results, Dr. Hoffman's preliminary diagnoses was that Harvey had a mobile rectal cancer, possibly not reaching through the rectal wall. The tumor was less than 5 cm. in size. Dr. Hoffman's plan was to remove the cancer via transanal excision (TAE), meaning that Harvey would retain full sphincter function post-operatively. There was a strong possibility that APR could be avoided altogether. "I was so relieved," said Harvey. "If my father had known how to do cartwheels, he would have done them," said Carol.

The final pathology of the TAE would be the determining factor, revealing the depth of the tumor's invasion into, or through, the rectal wall. Dr. Hoffman ordered a course of both radiation and chemotherapy after the surgery to optimize outcomes. Harvey spent a total of 2 nights in the hospital, as opposed to the 10-day stay required for the radical APR surgery.

In 2010, more than a decade later, Harvey remains cancer free and active.

Dr. Hoffman's diagnosis was confirmed during Harvey's surgery. His stage 2 cancer had not penetrated the rectal wall. The pathology report confirmed that clean margins had been achieved. Harvey drove himself home from the hospital to enjoy Christmas with family and friends. "Everything was really all right," said Harvey. "It was just wonderful." In 2010, more than a decade later, Harvey remains cancer free and active.

My father is 90 years old today because of Dr. Hoffman and Fox Chase."

"Patients really need to be informed about their options, and seek the best care possible," said daughter Carol. "If my father had just accepted the first diagnosis without questioning, he would have been unnecessarily robbed of his quality of life, and possibly his life would have been over. Instead, he's been able to continue leading a full and very active life. Our family is so very grateful. My father is 90 years old today because of Dr. Hoffman and Fox Chase."