Dec. 1, 2017 | Tina Farber arrived in Arkansas with one thing on her mind — meeting her two new grandbabies. Her son’s third child had arrived in April, and her daughter was expecting her third about one month later.
“I was planning to stay about two months,” said Farber, a native Arkansan who now lives in New Mexico. “I had a PET scan scheduled for July 7 and needed to return home in time for that.”
A stage 3 lung cancer survivor, Farber was considered to be in remission following surgery, chemotherapy and radiation in 2016. The PET scan was a routine follow-up to ensure the cancer had not returned.
Her plans were about to change, however, when she soon developed a cough, headache and fever, prompting a trip to the urgent care clinic. After returning to her daughter’s house with a diagnosis of pneumonia, Farber’s fever shot up to 102.4 degrees and the family took action.
“My daughter, Brittney, said to pack my bags. She was taking me to the hospital,” said Farber.
About a year earlier, while still undergoing chemotherapy, Farber also had made a visit to Arkansas. A bout with dehydration during her stay landed her in the UAMS Emergency Department, where she was impressed with the doctors and nurses who attended to her.
“Everything was in sync. They got me all taken care of. I told my kids that if I’m ever visiting again and need to see a doctor, don’t take me anywhere but UAMS,” she said.
After making the hour-long drive from her daughter’s home in Malvern, Farber again arrived at UAMS where she was quickly admitted and given the attention of a team of health care providers.
“Before I even got my wristband, they called me to triage and then immediately put me in a room where six people were waiting to take care of me. I was blown away,” she said.
After a series of tests, the doctor arrived with unexpected news. Lesions were found in her brain and bones that likely meant the lung cancer had spread.
“Once we found out the tumor had progressed to the brain and bones, we immediately got Mrs. Farber’s team together to carefully review her case and formulate an overall treatment plan,” said Fen Xia, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology in the UAMS College of Medicine.
That team included Xia, who specializes in radiation therapy for brain cancer; medical oncologist Konstantinos Arnaoutakis, M.D., who specializes in lung cancer; and orthopedic oncologist Corey Montgomery, M.D., who specializes in bone cancer. Other specialists in neurology and neurosurgery also were consulted as the treatment plan took shape.
“Having a team of physicians who work together efficiently and in a timely manner is particularly critical in cancer patient care. At the UAMS Cancer Institute, our doctors and nurses communicate instantly and continuously to coordinate our patients’ care at every step, from diagnosis and care management planning to treatment delivery,” said Xia, who also works closely with nurse practitioner Nikki Baxter, A.P.R.N., at the UAMS Radiation Oncology Center.
Because radiation therapy requires daily treatments, Baxter is available to assist patients with symptom management and other issues that arise on a day-to-day basis.
“Communication and accessibility are the top priority with our patients. We all work together to provide the best care possible,” Baxter said.
That emphasis on communication and coordination have lightened the load for Farber and convinced her to postpone returning to New Mexico in favor of continuing treatment in her home state at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.
“It’s hard to be away from my husband, but God put me here for a reason,” said Farber, who added that her family and long-time friends have offered endless support and encouragement during her extended stay in Arkansas.
“The doctors and nurses at UAMS have taken the time to get to know me. They all know my story, which is really important to me. I’m going to stay here and fight this battle because I know I’m in good hands,” Farber said.