When Thomas Lanphear, 71, was diagnosed with Stage 3 rectal cancer after a routine colonoscopy, one of the first calls he made was to his nephew, a gastroenterologist in New Jersey. The Atlanta-based judge was looking for recommendations for a colorectal surgeon. He had been told that, although his cancer could be cured, he would need a major operation and a colostomy bag for the rest of his life.
“I looked to him for suggestions of someone who could perform surgery and help me treat my cancer,” says Judge Lanphear. “He told me about a surgeon outside of Philadelphia who was trying some new treatments that provided patients with a better and faster recovery.”
That surgeon was Dr. John Marks, Chief of Colorectal Surgery at Main Line Health and Director of the Mirabile Colorectal Center at Lankenau Medical Center. Interested in hearing more about Dr. Marks’ minimally invasive laparoscopic approach to treating cancer, Judge Lanphear booked a flight to Philadelphia for an appointment with Dr. Marks. That appointment turned out to be the first of many and “one of the best decisions” Judge Lanphear had ever made.
“I liked Dr. Marks right off the bat. He confirmed my cancer diagnosis and, right there in the office during my first appointment, we outlined a plan for us to deal with it,” says Judge Lanphear. “What was most important to me was that I would have a good quality of life after my surgery. Dr. Marks assured me that he was able to treat the cancer, and gave me the background information I needed to feel confident that I was in good hands. He responded to all of my questions and concerns.”
With Judge Lanphear’s active lifestyle and schedule in mind, Dr. Marks recommended a procedure called Transanal Abdominal Transanal Radical Proctosigmoidectomy (TATA), a procedure which was developed by Lankenau colorectal surgeon Dr. Gerald Marks in 1984 to allow patients such as Lanphear to avoid a permanent colostomy bag as a result of his cancer.
“When cancer is located in the lower part of the rectum, like Mr. Lanphear’s was, it can be near the sphincter, which controls bowel movements. The traditional treatment for colorectal cancer removes the cancer, but it also eliminates sphincter function,” explains Dr. Marks. “The TATA procedure is able to both remove the cancer and preserve the sphincter function.”
In May of 2005, on the morning after his daughter’s wedding, Judge Lanphear came to Lankenau to undergo the nine-hour Robotic TATA procedure. After recovering at Lankenau for only five days, he was walking two miles a day along the shoreline in Ocean City the next week, and was ready to return to work just over a month after the surgery.
Nearly seven years after his first visit in 2005, Judge Lanphear visited Dr. Marks for his final appointment. He continues to be cancer-free and is looking forward to participating in the country’s largest 10K race, the Peachtree Road Race, for his 14th year. None of this would be possible, he says, without the help and expertise of Dr. Marks.
“Dr. Marks was very thorough, very meticulous. His technique guaranteed that I had my quality of life back,” says Judge Lanphear. “I told him that I wanted to be able to golf, and be able to run without a bag, enjoy my grandchildren… and Dr. Marks was able to do what he promised. He provided me with superior medical care, outstanding treatment, and the assurance that I would have a good quality of life, despite my cancer. I have a wonderful quality of life now.”
And of his care at Lankenau, Judge Lanphear only has the best things to say.
“I continued living and working in Atlanta during the seven years I was being treated by Dr. Marks. But I was so impressed with Lankenau that I routinely flew up here for my follow-up. The people were very friendly, very helpful, and even the facility is beautiful. I know I received the best care possible there, and now I recommend it to other cancer patients, too.”
The Lankenau Colorectal Cancer Program at Lankenau continues to attract patients from across the region and country, thanks to the ability of Dr. Marks and the rest of the colorectal cancer team to use smaller incisions to cure cancer and avoid the need for a permanent colostomy bag. To make an appointment with a Lankenau cancer specialist, call 1.866.CALL. MLH or fill out our online appointment request form.