When a good friend suddenly becomes your great doctor
The American Cancer Society recommends men and women at average risk of colon cancer have their first colonoscopy soon after turning 50, and Kevin Lott did. Healthy, fit, he always took care of himself. He would have guessed he was at lower than average risk. Going into the exam, he had expected the gastroenterologist to tell him he had a small hemorrhoid, which was responsible for the minor drops of blood he had noticed in recent weeks. He had not expected to hear that he had a sizeable tumor in the lower intestine, and further testing found it to be cancer.
Shocked at the diagnosis, still a little groggy from anesthesia, he knew just what to do. He and his wife went straight to the office of Dr. Romulo Navarro at Coffee Regional Medical Center. Dr. Navarro was their neighbor, their friend, the host of the jovial Christmas parties they attended every year, and – most importantly – someone in whose practice Mr. Lott’s wife Christie had worked for several years. She had seen him with patients, hundreds of patients. She knew his dedication, work ethic, orientation to details, and genuine compassion for the people who came to him, worried, often scared, and who returned weeks later to thank him for the care and concern with which he had taken care of them. She also knew his experience with bowel resection, an operation in which the surgeon removes the part of the colon or rectum where the cancer is, then sews the healthy ends of the bowel back together. “Romulo Navarro is the absolute best,” she assured her husband. “If you have to have surgery, I want him to do it.”
And they wanted it done quickly. Dr. Navarro already had a full surgery schedule, but he promised to work his friend in the following day. Waiting in a hospital room at CRMC, looked after by a caring team of nurses and other clinicians, the Lotts felt confident they had made the right decision.
Mr. Lott was the last patient of the day. The operation proved complicated, due to the size and location of the tumor, lower in the bowel, close to the rectum. At first, Dr. Navarro later told Mr. Lott, he thought he might need to perform a colostomy, bringing one end of the large intestine out an opening in the abdominal wall for stool to drain into a bag. He had done these before when tumor placement made it necessary. This time, however, with a lot of time and care, he was able to avoid that. He took out the tumor, removed the nearby lymph nodes to be examined for cancer, then, in Mr. Lott’s words, “he put me back together the way I was so I could live life normally, the way I did before.”
But surgically, it had been a challenge, a long and complicated operation. At Dr. Navarro’s insistence, Mr. Lott spent ten days at CRMC, including three in the Intensive Care Unit. The surgeon checked on him several times a day, making sure there was no bleeding or other complication. Throughout it all, the Lotts had real peace of mind. They knew they had a great surgeon, with extensive experience. They looked forward to his visits, filled as they were with the trademark Navarro energy and good humor – and with great concern for how both of them were feeling. The nurses and other staff at CRMC were a well-functioning team, who shared that concern.
Ten years later, “I am cancer free,” says Mr. Lott. “I feel very blessed to have had him as my surgeon. I wouldn’t change anything.” Mr. Lott now visits his gastroenterologist regularly, but when he and his wife see Dr. Navarro, at community events or social gatherings, they see not only their friend but also the doctor whose care gave Mr. Lott back the life he wanted.
Kevin Lott came to Douglas as a child, when his father decided to move the family back to his hometown. Mr. Lott and his wife Christie reared their two daughters here, one of whom lives close by, the other in Tifton. The Lotts are expecting their first grandchild in 2016.
Dr. Navarro has practiced at CRMC since 1982. He is originally from the Philippines but completed his surgical training in the U.S. See bio.