In 2017 when U.S. Foreign Service Officer Tod Thedy was ready to retire from his 20-plus years of government service, he had the mandatory pre-retirement physical. A surprising spot showed up on his right lung. Tod, a lifelong non-smoker, was told he’d need a CT scan every six months to ensure it remained the same size and shape. Nearly a year later, while Tod was vacationing in Thailand (one of his prior Foreign Service postings and where he’d received quality medical care in the past), he realized he was due for the next scan.
“I didn’t think anything of it, I just went in and had my routine six-month scan there,” Tod says. The results, unfortunately, were anything but routine. The CT scan showed a dramatic change in the size and shape of the mass on his lung, leading to a suspicion of Stage I lung cancer. When lung cancer is caught at Stage I, most patients only require surgery – no chemotherapy or radiation. If all cancerous cells can be removed these patients are considered cured.
“The doctors in Thailand wanted to do surgery right away. I had confidence in the care I would receive there, but I was due to return to the United States soon, so it seemed reasonable to weigh my options,” he says. “Ochsner was my first choice in the U.S. I’d used Ochsner in the past and I’d had great experiences with Ochsner clinicians.”
After navigating the difficulties of trying to secure healthcare from a foreign country, including a 12-hour time difference and Internet issues, Tod chose cardiothoracic surgeon Matthew Gaudet, MD.
“Dr. Gaudet’s office was very accommodating given that I don’t live in New Orleans anymore and I was going to have a short window to see them and determine what to do,” he says. Tod had done considerable research on his options and his potential providers. “I met with Dr. Gaudet about the surgery and got it scheduled, but then I started having second thoughts. I wanted to explore a newer, more targeted form of radiation instead, so I dropped in and asked to speak to Dr. Troy Scoggins, who had treated my mother with so much compassion and empathy when she’d had terminal lung cancer 20 years ago. He generously agreed to see me without an appointment and talked me through why the targeted radiation procedure was not a good option for me. I really appreciated that he took the time and put my mind at ease.”
Tod’s positive experiences extended past his surgery. “After the surgery, I wasn’t allowed to fly for six weeks, and Dr. Gaudet’s staff worked with me so I could have my sutures removed in El Paso. They understood that pain management for an out-of-town patient might be difficult. This was a concern of mine and they put my mind at ease. They went out of their way to understand my logistical needs and work with them, while being completely thorough, compassionate and professional.”
Today, months after his surgery in February 2018, Tod is doing well and has returned to all his normal retirement pursuits, primarily traveling around the U.S. and the world.
“I am cured,” Tod says. “Dr. Gaudet was able to get all the cancer, and I didn’t need anything else – no chemo, no radiation. Early detection is a big deal. My mother’s lung cancer was found in Stage IV and by then it was terminal. I’m very lucky that it was caught this early. If I hadn’t retired when I did and undergone the pre-retirement physical, I wouldn’t have discovered the cancer this early. I had no symptoms.”