John Satterwhite

Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST) Patient Stories

John Satterwhite

In the spring of 2006, at the age of 84, John Satterwhite underwent upper endoscopy to evaluate his anemia. His local gastroenterologist discovered a bleeding growth in John’s upper stomach and referred him to a colleague at Fox Chase Cancer Center, Dr. Oleh Haluszka, who specializes in complex procedures not often performed outside of academic facilities.

Dr. Haluszka performed further testing which revealed that John's mass was a gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), a rare cancer of the sarcoma class that affects the digestive tract or nearby structures within the abdomen. Dr. James Watson, a surgical oncologist at Fox Chase, who specializes in sarcomas, as well as cancers of the upper GI tract, was consulted for treatment.

John was a candidate for minimally invasive surgery.

Dr. Watson discussed the treatment options with John, and decided that the best course of action would be minimally invasive surgery to remove the tumor and part of his stomach. Fortunately, Dr. Watson was able to perform the entire procedure laparoscopically, which resulted in a faster and easier recovery for John, who was discharged back to his own home within 4 days of surgery. John was back to full strength and his usual activities within a couple of weeks.

At more than 80 years of age, John has required the assistance of his extended family to get him to appointments, to help with the transfer of medical records and for follow-up care. John's journey with cancer was truly a family affair. His brother, Henry, spent a great deal of time with John at Fox Chase and was "impressed with the entire operation."

"For a big facility, I was amazed with how smoothly everything went for John," said Henry. "We never had to wait a long time for appointments, or for any type of care. I was truly impressed with everyone."

"Dr. Watson is a gifted doctor and he made me feel at ease."

John agreed. "I felt the care I received at Fox Chase Cancer Center was outstanding. Everyone was kind and respectful and the follow-up care I received after my surgery was really great. Dr. Watson is a gifted doctor and he made me feel at ease."

Today, John remains cancer–free and continues to keep busy doing yard work and tending to his vegetable garden. He looks back at his experience with true amazement. "I am just so happy that Dr. Watson was my doctor, he did an amazing job, and I would recommend that anyone who has cancer go to Fox Chase."