From Pediatrician to Patient to Survivor

6 min read

From Pediatrician to Patient to Survivor

Approximately a decade ago, Dr. Fred Logan* retired from a long, rewarding career as a pediatrician. A few years later, he got firsthand experience on what it’s like to be on the other side of the patient-provider relationship.

Of course, he’d been a patient before, but this was different.

It began when he noticed his throat felt full and sore. Dr. Logan’s wife, Sara*, put his mind at ease, insisting it was nothing to worry about. So, the couple headed on a trip to South America. 

Over the course of the couple’s month-long journey, Dr. Logan developed a suspicious symptom. 

“A friend on the trip pointed out that I was getting hoarse,” Dr. Logan said. “He thought it may have happened because I was talking loudly in restaurants.”

Though not concerned, Dr. Logan suspected he had a nodule on his vocal cords. When he returned home to Denver in early November 2019, he went to see his primary care provider. His suspicion was pretty accurate – there was indeed a growth on his left tonsil.

More Than a Sore Throat

It was unclear whether the growth was serious, but Dr. Logan’s internist didn’t want to take chances. After an MRI and biopsy, it was determined that Dr. Logan had large B cell lymphoma. 

Further testing confirmed the diagnosis. Thankfully, blood tests, bone marrow tests, and a diagnostic imaging scan found the cancer hadn’t spread. There was no lymph node involvement, and the cancer was confined to Dr. Logan’s tonsils. This was encouraging news, as this stage 1 cancer had a high cure rate. 

“We found my cancer early because I felt something in my throat,” Dr. Logan said. “I’m fortunate. If it was in the kidney or liver, I wouldn’t have known about it until it was quite large, and my outcome may not have been as successful.”

The high likelihood of a cure meant Dr. Logan needed to start treatment before the cancer had a chance to spread and become a more significant health threat. Dr. Logan asked his internist where to turn for treatment, and without hesitation, he recommended Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers (RMCC). 

Next, Dr. Logan put on his doctor hat and began researching his disease. As he did, he found Dr. Robert M. Rifkin, FACP, board-certified medical oncologist and hematologist at RMCC. Though Dr. Logan was impressed with his reputation and background, he was also drawn to Dr. Rifkin for a more personal reason.

“My daughter-in-law and his daughter went to school together,” Dr. Logan said. “That connection made me feel comfortable with him, so I said, ‘Let’s go for it!’”

Choosing the Right Treatment

With a positive attitude, he headed to RMCC. His first meeting with Dr. Rifkin went well. 

“He knows his oncology,” Dr. Logan said. “He’s very efficient and is a nice fellow.”

Surgical removal of the tonsils is considered a curative treatment for this type of cancer but not an option proposed for Dr. Logan.

“Recovery from a tonsillectomy would have been painful,” Dr. Logan said. “I was relieved when Dr. Rifkin said he would kill the tumor with chemotherapy.”

Dr. Rifkin prescribed chemotherapy, which began at the end of 2019. The plan was for Dr. Logan to receive chemotherapy over an 18-week period at RMCC, once every three weeks.

Initially, everything was going well. Three treatments in, the cancer was nearly gone. After four, the tumor had disappeared. With two more treatments left, the plan changed.

It was early 2020 and the new as COVID-19 virus was making its way around the world, changing life as we knew it.

By March, Dr. Logan had already received five doses of chemotherapy. The cancer was gone, but he still had one more treatment left to complete the plan. Dr. Rifkin realized the final treatment would improve his patient’s outcome by a tiny bit. COVID-19, however, could make things much worse. So, he canceled the final treatment session.

“Chemotherapy weakened my immune system,” Dr. Logan said. “Dr. Rifkin felt the risk of COVID-19 outweighed the benefit of the final treatment, so we canceled.”

On the Road with Chemotherapy

While he cut out certain activities during treatment, Dr. Logan kept living life prior to Covid-19. He visited family and friends. Following his first treatment, he even headed to Mexico for a short trip.

Saline drip for chemotherapyHe admits his experience was not as challenging as he thought it would be. Chemotherapy has a number of common side effects, and he got off pretty easy. Sure, he lost most of his hair, but he sidestepped most other symptoms. He rarely felt nauseous. In fact, after treatment ended, he still had most of his anti-nausea prescription left over. 

The hardest part came after treatment. 

When COVID-19 arrived, Dr. Logan had to keep his distance from those he loves. When he and Sara visited their eldest grandson, they didn’t go inside and chat. They sat on the yard in lawn chairs. Their son, daughter-in-law, and grandchild stayed inside. But talking through glass doors strengthened Dr. Logan’s resolve to press onward.

“COVID-19 didn’t change how I approach life,” Dr. Logan said. “It confirmed that I needed to keep busy and stay social.”

Recovered and Referring

February 2023 marks three years since Dr. Logan’s cancer went into remission. He admits that while he felt OK during treatment, he felt much better when it ended. His energy returned. He began sleeping better. And while all his hair didn’t come back, most did. He considers a little hair loss a “small price to pay.” 

There was one hiccup during Dr. Logan’s therapy. Positron emission tomography or PET scan showed a problem in his gut. Not tumors, but small pouches inside the colon. Known as diverticulosis, the condition didn’t cause any symptoms. 

“It’s not infectious, but it can become infected,” Dr. Logan said. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. “I just had to follow up on the diverticulosis, and nothing concerning happened with it.”

To thank the people who helped him and encourage those undergoing treatment, he wanted to drop off some treats at RMCC, but with COVID-19 cases surging, his gift had to wait. When the pandemic finally calmed down, Dr. Logan headed to RMCC with baked goods and candy.

“Dr. Rifkin, my chemotherapy nurse, and everyone else at RMCC was very caring,” he said. “I felt very well-informed and taken care of throughout my treatment.” 

Today, Dr. Logan stays busy. He’s on a medical advisory board for his local school district. He participates in a group that meets to study and discuss various topics. He continues to enjoy traveling with Sara, though a new grandson gives the couple another reason to stay close to home. 

“Life is short, and you never know what tomorrow will bring,” he said. 

When the unexpected happens and the diagnosis is cancer, Dr. Logan knows where to turn. 

“If anyone asks,” he said, “I highly recommend RMCC.”

You don’t have to travel far for high-quality cancer care. Find an RMCC clinic near you where you’ll have a team of experts by your side throughout your cancer journey.


*The names in this blog have been changed to protect their identities.