Retired Lieutenant General Faces Prostate Cancer Head-on at UAMS

| May 29, 2018 | George Crocker is up to just about any challenge. A retired Army lieutenant general, Crocker spent the good part of his life defending his country both at home and abroad. From two tours in Vietnam to serving as commander at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, Washington, Crocker made a lasting mark through his distinguished military service.

That steely determination carried over into other parts of his life as well, and when he was told he needed treatment for prostate cancer, Crocker was ready to do whatever it took to take care of the problem.

“I told him, ‘We can take the prostate out,’” he said, recalling his conversation with UAMS urologic oncologist Rodney Davis, M.D., following his biopsy in 2017.

Davis, though, had other ideas. After studying Crocker’s medical history, which included a massive stroke two years earlier, Davis quickly determined that surgery presented too many risks.

“I wanted to find the treatment that was the safest and least stressful overall,” said Davis, professor and chairman of the Department of Urology in the UAMS College of Medicine. Surgery could have increased Crocker’s risk of a second stroke, so Davis recommended a course of radiation therapy instead.

Plus, radiation presented the definite possibility of a cure.

A resident of Clinton, Crocker was already confident in the ability of UAMS doctors to successfully treat the most complex medical conditions. When he fell to the floor of his garage unconscious in 2015, Crocker’s wife, Vonda, quickly called emergency medical services. They, in turn, alerted the emergency department at the Ozark Health Medical Center, a partner in the UAMS-led statewide stroke program AR Saves.

AR Saves, which stands for Stroke Assistance through Virtual Emergency Support, began at UAMS in 2008 and has grown to include 54 partner sites throughout Arkansas. It uses a high-speed video communications system to help provide immediate, life-saving treatments to stroke patients by enabling a stroke neurologist to evaluate whether emergency room physicians should use a powerful blood thinner known as t-PA within the critical three-hour period following the first signs of stroke.

After receiving the drug, Crocker’s cramped arm began to relax and he was transferred by ambulance to the UAMS hospital where he underwent a brain scan, was administered more t-PA and had two clots removed from his brain. In fewer than 24 hours, he was forming complete sentences and on the road to recovery.

Now, however, Crocker was facing a new challenge with his diagnosis of prostate cancer and he was trusting fellow Army veteran Davis to determine the best course of treatment. Davis, an Iraq war veteran who underwent military training at Fort Lewis and holds the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army Retired Reserve, assured Crocker that radiation therapy was the best choice to maintain his quality of life, as well as kill the cancer cells in the prostate and any malignant cells that might be adjacent to it.

Crocker began his round of 28 treatments in late 2017 at the UAMS Radiation Oncology Center under the supervision of Sanjay Maraboyina, M.D., assistant professor in the Radiation Oncology Department in the UAMS College of Medicine.

“When I first met with Mr. Crocker, I told him that recent clinical studies have shown a five-week course of treatment to be just as safe and effective as the typical eight-week regimen. It’s also more convenient for patients, who have to come in every day for treatment. I want to be sure our patients have access to the latest advancements, because this is truly what sets UAMS apart from other cancer centers,” Maraboyina said.

Although he is still experiencing some side effects related to the hormone therapy necessary to reduce his testosterone level, Crocker is back to his active lifestyle. Left unchecked, testosterone can stimulate prostate cancer cells to grow.

“Mr. Crocker had a fierce determination throughout his treatment and approached every obstacle related to his health in much the same way he has his military career. Together with his team of doctors, he was determined to beat prostate cancer,” Maraboyina said.

With a European vacation and reunion of his West Point class coming up, Crocker shows no signs of slowing down and is thankful he does not have to.

“Dr. Davis gave me clear and logical reasons for the treatment I needed, and the staff at the UAMS Radiation Oncology Center was first class in every respect. I couldn’t be happier,” he said.