All our doctors and everyone at Bronson were great

Norm Anderson, Patient

As a retired surgical nurse, Bev Anderson knew that the treatment for her husband Norman’s colon cancer would involve many different doctors. What she didn’t expect was fast, seamless referrals and communication among all the care providers — coordinated by Bronson’s Oncology Nurse Navigator Service.

Bronson’s Oncology Nurse Navigator Service is offered free to all cancer patients at Bronson. It provides a single point of contact for patients and their families through their journey of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Norman started his journey after Bev noticed blood on the toilet after he had used it. She called Norman’s primary care doctor, Nicholas Sward, MD, of Bronson Family Practice. He referred Norman to John Quertermus, MD, with Bronson Gastroenterology. Dr. Quertermus performed a colonoscopy to examine the inner lining of Norman’s large intestine, rectum and colon.

The procedure found a tumor located very low in Norman’s bowel, and a biopsy revealed that it was malignant. “Then things started happening very quickly,” Bev remembers.

The Andersons were referred to Michael Chen, MD, of Bronson Colon & Rectal Surgery. “We got in to see him within days. The surgery was scheduled a month earlier than it normally would have been because it was cancer,” Bev remembers.

At their office visit before the surgery, Dr. Chen explained that he would use a minimally invasive procedure. He would remove the tumor through small incisions in Norman’s abdomen.

In spite of the tumor’s challenging location, Norman’s surgery went well. “To go in that low into the rectum through such small incisions, and maneuver past the rest of the bowel, with no complications, is just remarkable,” Bev says. “Dr. Chen is such an accomplished surgeon and he was so kind, and so good at explaining everything we would experience,” she adds.

Before Bev retired from Bronson in 2004, she saw plenty of traditional bowel resection procedures. “In a traditional procedure, they would have made a large incision and held the bowel aside to get at the tumor. It would have meant a large scar, more risk for infection, more pain, and many, many more days in the hospital for recovery,” she says. During the procedure, Dr. Chen performed an ileostomy by routing part of the small intestine outside the body, creating a stoma. This is where waste would exit his body. Then when his colon was healed, Dr. Chen would reverse the ileostomy, reattaching the small intestine to the large intestine.

Norman’s stay at Bronson for the initial surgery was just 2-1/2 days. During his stay, both Norman and Bev learned how to care for his stoma, which Bev calls “a real learning experience.” Bronson Stomal Therapy nurses were located just around the corner from Norman’s hospital room. “They showed us exactly what to do, what supplies we needed at home (which they ordered for us) and told us how to get more. They visited us right there on the unit. Then they were available by phone when we had questions after we got home,” Bev says. Norman’s case will now be followed with periodic colonoscopies and CT scans.

Ten weeks after Norman’s first surgery, he came back to Bronson to have his ileostomy reversed. Bev reports that “everything is reattached and working,” and Norman is back to all his regular activities. Though he retired as a Kalamazoo Public Safety Officer in 1987, he has had a very active life. He maintains several rental properties, walks for exercise, keeps tabs on four children and seven grandchildren, and plays the keyboard to entertain friends and family. Looking back at the many stops along his journey, Bev and Norman feel their treatment was well coordinated and his care was first rate. “All our doctors and everyone at Bronson were great,” Bev says. “We were really happy with our experience.”

The Bronson Oncology Nurse Navigator Service offers a personal navigator who acts as liaison to enhance the quality and continuity of care for cancer patients.