Tyler Today April/May 2017 : Page 164

tylertoday Tribute to Courage Facing the Unexpected by Rebecca Berkley ETMC Director of Public Relations Like many men in their 30s, James Warren Robicheaux felt like his health was great. Robicheaux is the senior administrator of ETMC Pittsburg. The hospital had just started offering calcium scoring—a cardiac computed topography scan that shows if there’s any plaque in the coronary arteries. He told the hospital’s physicians he would give them a free scan to see how it works. They agreed to do it, but only if he would. Robicheaux did the test and that evening one of the doctors called him and asked if he could meet him at his office. “I was actually anxious to go because I was thinking it was something work related,” he said. “I was not expecting to hear that I had an eight-centimeter mass in my chest. My calcium score was a perfect zero!” Robicheaux says he was in complete shock. He was only thirty-five years old. He had no history of cancer in his family. “I was really numb for awhile to the specifics.” The next part of his story gets complicated. He was scheduled for surgery at ETMC Tyler. The surgeon was able to remove most of the cancer, but discovered that the cancer had spread to his abdomen, heart, vascular system and neck. He was diagnosed with a rare, invasive cancer called thymoma, which affects the thymus, a small organ that lies in the chest under the breastbone and is part of the lymph system. It makes white blood cells and protects the body against infections. Most of the time, this type of cancer doesn’t 164 APRIL / MAY 201 7 show any symptoms, and is discovered, like in Robicheaux’s case, with a chest X-ray. Because of the rarity of this type of cancer and the possibility of damage to the heart and lungs from traditional radiation, Robicheaux’s physicians recommended proton therapy at a Houston hospital. His wife and children moved there with him for two months while he underwent intensive treatment. “My support system was very important. My dad is a pathologist and he looked over my tissue samples. My wife deserves the most praise for taking care of me and the children. She kept me positive and motivated and focused on getting better. ETMC employees also were very supportive and raised money to help with my treatment and relocation to Houston. Also, ETMC administration was very supportive while I was away.” Robicheaux also went through five rounds of chemotherapy in Tyler. He recently had a follow-up scan and was proud to report that he was still cancer free, “After my diagnosis, I think almost all of the employees at ETMC Pittsburg and Quitman signed up for the calcium scoring. Even though the test is meant to detect calcium buildup in the arteries of the heart, in my case, it detected cancer. It’s been over a year now, and it’s hard to wrap my mind around that impromptu decision to have a test that saved my life. I have been truly blessed by God, and that’s the only explanation I have.”

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