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Chris Harmon Beat Cancer Close to Home

When Chris Harmon attended the open house at the Good Samaritan Hospital Cancer Pavilion in 2008, he was impressed with the facilities but didn’t give them much thought afterward. After all, he was in his early 40s and feeling fine.

But four years later, the co-owner of Harmon’s Medical Supply in Vincennes was very glad they were there.

In early 2012, Chris began feeling a scratch in his throat. “It felt like I had a piece of plastic stuck in my throat,” recalled Chris. His wife, Vicki, thought she knew the reason. “He has a habit of using those dental floss sticks and then chewing on the stick,” she said. “He was having to clear his throat constantly, so I told him that he probably had a piece of plastic stuck in his throat and he needed to go see a doctor.”

However, Chris did nothing until a few months later when he began to spit up blood after clearing his throat. He made an appointment with Dr. Mark Logan, an ear, nose and throat specialist in Evansville, who found a growth on his larynx. “The doctor said he couldn’t just get down there and pull it out,” Chris said. “They would have to put me under and stretch the throat to get it out. He said it would be a little abrasive but not too bad.”

The procedure was scheduled in Evansville for the next month but was delayed three weeks because of insurance conflicts. When Chris finally went in for his procedure, the doctor removed a growth the size of his thumb off of the larynx. The growth was sent off for biopsy and Chris was told to return in one month for follow-up.

“Two days later I got a call saying the doctor wants to see you. Being in the medical field, I knew that wasn’t good news,” Chris recalled.

Chris was shocked to learn that he had throat cancer. “I don’t smoke, I don’t chew,” he said. “But the doctor said throat cancer is a very treatable form of cancer.”

Chris was given two options: have surgery to remove the cancer, which would be very risky given its location, or see an oncologist to begin treatment. After consulting with a good friend in Illinois, who was also a nurse practitioner, he decided to see her oncologist in Terre Haute. “She had been through cancer herself, so I valued her opinion,” he explained. “But when I saw the doctor, he asked why I was coming up here when it is a very treatable cancer that can be treated in Vincennes.”

The Terre Haute oncologist spoke to Chris about chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and he scheduled him to have a PET scan at Good Samaritan Hospital. Then Chris met with a radiation oncologist in Terre Haute, who also recommended that he receive treatment at Good Samaritan Hospital. “That doctor called Good Samaritan Hospital and talked to Dr. Furman. He was impressed with her and highly recommended I go to her and do radiation down there,” Chris said.

The Harmons went to Good Samaritan for Chris’s PET scan and then met with Dr. Subashini Furman, who answered all of their questions. “She was so thorough. She explained to us about the cancer, how it developed, and why it happened,” Vicki said. “Then she took us down and showed us the PET scan layer by layer by layer and explained every layer of it.”

One week later, Chris began his treatment at Good Samaritan. His cancer was stage 2, and Dr. Haitham Al-Okk prescribed four rounds of chemotherapy.

Chris recalled how tired and sick he felt after his treatments and was thankful he wasn’t traveling to a hospital an hour away. “Treatment was exhausting. I would come into work in the morning and check emails and then go back home to bed,” he said. He also appreciated that the radiation center, infusion center and physician offices were all located in the Cancer Pavilion, easing the process.

Best of all, the treatment worked: Chris’s cancer was gone. “Good Samaritan Hospital gave me the best shot to beat it,” he stated.“I feel like I got the best treatment. I can’t say enough for it. It was an easy location and easily accessible. It made the treatment so much nicer.”

Chris and Vicki said the people at Good Samaritan Hospital also made the experience more bearable. “The doctors there are excellent and the nurses and staff were exemplary,” Vicki said. “They went above and beyond making us comfortable. You couldn’t ask for a better group. They were all very nice and they really do care about the people who come in.”