John Baker quite literally lives a stone’s throw away from Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center in Natchez. Passing it an endless number of times over the years, it never occurred to him that he might one day rely on the care the southwest Mississippi location provides.
“I believe I got as good of care there as I could have received anywhere else,” John said.
His journey with stage 2 bladder cancer, however, did not begin at the Cancer Center.
In the waning days of January 2022, John began to notice some concerning signs when using the restroom, but with no urologist in Natchez, he had to travel out of town.
That is where John would undergo surgery to remove two tumors in his bladder, before he received another recommendation to drive farther out of town as doctors worked to determine exactly how to go forward.
A couple of weeks later, John’s diagnosis would be confirmed, and he was advised to undergo surgery to remove his bladder, lymph nodes and prostate. Radiation was discouraged, John said, but he wasn’t sold on the surgery, which would alter his life in some ways.
“Surgery was way down the list of things I was considering,” John said.
John wouldn’t have to end up making the decision between surgery and getting a second opinion himself, as two days later he learned the out-of-town hospital would not accept his insurance.
“I didn’t know what to do,” John recalled. “I asked, ‘can you at least help me find someone else to help me?’”
So, it was back to Natchez, where he met with a local medical oncologist. That oncologist quickly called Divyang Mehta, radiation oncologist, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center in Natchez. John was told to head over to the Cancer Center where Dr. Mehta would be waiting for him.
At that first visit, John would spend nearly two hours with Dr. Mehta going over his medical history.
“He had my confidence from the start,” John said. “He walked me through everything and answered every question I had. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
From there, John underwent multiple scans and bloodwork and after Dr. Mehta was able to look at everything, a treatment plan was devised.
That would include five days of radiation for seven weeks, plus chemotherapy twice a week for a similar amount of time.
At Mary Bird Perkins, dedicated team members strive not only to provide comprehensive cancer care, but convenient care. With the Natchez location so close to home, John was able to take advantage of expert care without leaving the city limits.
“Traveling was just something I didn’t have to worry about during the course of my treatment,” John said. “I saw some people who had to travel 50 to 60 miles for treatment. Not having to go to Baton Rouge or Jackson, Mississippi for treatment was a blessing.”
Being able to stay home also provided comfort and flexibility to John, 66, and his wife.
John became close to several staff members at the Natchez location, from radiation therapist, Sylvia Johns, to receptionist, Wanda Sebille. Being in such a small town, he would frequently see those taking care of him around Natchez.
As treatment continued, John would tick off another number during each visit as he approached his 35, and final, radiation appointment. With treatment complete, John’s response has been positive. Follow-up appointments continue, but looking back, he believes his decision to receive a second opinion was the right one, and he’s thrilled to have been pointed to Mary Bird Perkins.
“I’m comfortable with my decision, John said.” “Now, I’m going to be a poster boy!”