At the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center, Ken Sharp learned to become a cancer survivor.
“I feel like they’ve given me my life back. I really do,” Sharp said. “I can’t say enough about them.”
Specialists at Christiana Care have tackled every aspect of Sharp’s effort to survive the treatment he needed to beat Stage II lung cancer, originally diagnosed in December of 2008: pain management, nutrition services, physical therapy and occupational therapy.
In the first two years after his release from a Pennsylvania hospital in 2009, he couldn’t function, according to his wife Jo Ann. “He could barely drive. He could barely walk. He could barely move his arm,” she said.Thanks to efforts by pain management specialists, physical and occupational therapist and nutritionists, Sharp can now do the simple things he used to enjoy.
Sharp was diagnosed with lung cancer purely by accident after an MRI that was supposed to be examining a cyst on his neck inadvertently scanned the upper lobe of his lung.
“At the bottom of the scan, they saw the mass – a portion of the mass,” Jo Ann said. “It was totally by accident. There were no symptoms. He wasn’t being checked for anything other than the cyst he had on his neck.”
A new scan of Ken’s lungs was immediately conducted, and doctors quickly discovered a softball-sized tumor invading the upper lobe of his lung that was also attached to his chest wall.
“I had moderate pain in my arm that went down to my fingers,” Ken said. “I just figured it was another ache and pain that I had. But that’s actually one of the symptoms of the tumor.”
Sharp began radiation and chemotherapy to shrink the tumor before undergoing surgery to remove one lobe of his lung, four of his ribs and parts of the muscles on his chest wall that were all invaded by the tumor. Although the cancer was gone, Sharp found that returning to his life was going to be a much longer journey.
“He was in severe pain. He couldn’t move his right arm,” Jo Ann said. “We were actually told by the hospital that he’d never be able to move his right arm again because of the pain levels and the muscle damage and the nerve damage.”
“The pain was just unbelievable,” Ken said. “You didn’t want to do anything.”
That’s when the Sharps began to focus on survivorship, and the Delaware residents turned to the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center.
In November 2009, Ken started seeing pain management specialists at the cancer center. With their help, along with physical and occupational therapists, he can now use his right arm. His pain levels are well managed. He can drive. He can dispense with supplemental oxygen at various points throughout the day.
“I wish I could have gotten into this place when I first came out of the hospital,” Ken said, describing his experience at the Helen Graham Center as “fabulous.”
“They’re the ones prescribing his physical therapy, they’re the ones prescribing his medications, and it’s helping,” Jo Ann said. “They’re proactive with everything.”
Christiana Care’s nutrition services have helped Ken and Jo Ann plan meals to meet the 4,000-calorie-a-day diet he needs to consume, to help his body fight off the complications such as pneumonia and other lung-related problems that have persisted since his cancer treatment began.
“I have a hard enough time eating, [because] I have a low appetite,” Ken said. “I eat like a bird. They gave me recommendations on what to eat. It’s helpful.”
The staff at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center has tackled nearly every aspect of Ken Sharp’s life except his cancer.
“I can’t say enough about them … They’re outstanding,” he said.