Allen Hamm has worked with doctors, nurses, and therapists in many areas of Piedmont Fayette Hospital, and even some off-site locations like the Piedmont Wellness Center at Pinewood Forest. What he found during his years of cancer treatment and physical therapy was a staff that worked incredibly well together to provide, holistic, patient-centered care.
Hamm was first diagnosed with cancer in 2012 with squamous cell carcinoma on the base of his tongue. He was able to treat it with radiation and chemotherapy, but scar tissue sealed his esophagus and it took a procedure to open it again. Hamm began working with Katie Harris, a speech therapist and supervisor of rehabilitation services at Piedmont Fayette, to help him be able to eat again.
“I can’t say enough about her,” Hamm said. “She was dedicated to helping me and worked wonders.”
When cancer was detected in Hamm’s jawbone in 2019, it was determined that his jawbone would have to be removed and rebuilt with a bone from his fibula. His ability to swallow was once again hindered and Hamm worked with Harris to be able to swallow and eat again. He had elected not to undergo radiation therapy this time around and instead opted for additional CT scans with Geetha Rao, M.D., medical director of radiation oncology at Piedmont Fayette.
Hamm also worked with the staff of the outpatient wound care center at Piedmont Fayette to help with the wound on his leg from the surgical procedure.
“The wound care staff was so important to me,” said Joyce, Hamm’s wife. “Katie actually called and set the appointment up for me. They taught me how to treat the wound and gave both of us peace of mind.”
While working on swallow therapy with Harris, Hamm also began physical therapy with Andy Thomas at the Piedmont Wellness Center at Pinewood Forest to help regain mobility in his neck and work with his leg. He and Joyce recently went on a hiking trip to Yellowstone National Park and the Rockies with friends, a trip that wouldn’t have been possible without putting in the work with physical therapy.
Hamm also gives a lot of credit to the Head and Neck Cancer Support Group led by Doug Bradley. The group, which meets through Thomas F. Chapman Family Cancer Wellness, provided a ton of support to both Hamm and his wife during the challenges of treatment.
“Doug is a cancer survivor. He’s been through it. He has such an upbeat demeanor that I’d leave the meetings feeling uplifted and knowing that I would beat this,” said Hamm. “The meetings are now taking place virtually, but they are still a great way to connect. We’ve made a lot of friends. One member took care of my yard when I was having surgery and Doug took care of my cat while I was away.”
It has been a long journey for Hamm and his family, but he has persevered thanks in part to the coordinated team effort at Piedmont Fayette.
To learn more about the comprehensive cancer care at Piedmont, visit piedmont.org/cancer.