Patient Story

Tommy’s story: From taking care of patients to becoming one

Tommy Blackburn’s journey started in the summer of 2018. He started having “weird” stomach pains, leg cramps and restless leg symptoms.  

Then one day he became suddenly dizzy and disoriented at work. He went to the emergency room (ER), thinking that the symptoms were related to his recently diagnosed high blood pressure. The ER doctor confirmed an entirely different cause – a very low blood count. Tommy was admitted to the hospital. 

Tommy would undergo a colonoscopy/endoscopy, where doctors discovered many cysts in his colon. Biopsy results revealed stage 3 colon cancer. Tommy was shocked. 

“There were times that I would just cry and feel depressed, with the hopes that someone would wake me up from this bad dream,” Tommy said. “But with the encouragement of my wife and family I had the strength to carry on.” 

Tommy underwent colon resection surgery on November 12, 2018. One month later, he began chemotherapy treatment at Atlanta Cancer Care in Decatur. 

When Tommy received his diagnosis, there was no question about where he would be treated. Tommy is a pharmacy technician at Atlanta Cancer Care. 

“I wanted to be treated [at Atlanta Cancer Care] because, not only was I employee there, I knew how much our patients mean to each and every one of us,” Tommy said. “The relationships that we have with our patients are top notch.” 

Choosing a doctor was a much harder decision. 

“The two doctors that we had at this time were the best in the world and that’s why I’m always saying my slogan, I work in ‘Decatur where it’s Greater,’ and being treated there was the best decision that I’ve ever made,” Tommy said. 

Tommy ultimately chose Dr. Lijo Simpson

“I was so blessed to have chosen Dr. Simpson as my oncologist; he made my family and I feel more than welcome, comfortable, and was willing to answer any and all questions that we had,” Tommy said. “Not only was Dr. Simpson my medical provider, he was my friend.” 

On one particular day, Tommy recalls looking around at all of the other patients receiving treatment. 

“I remember thinking to myself, what can I do to touch these people and to let them know that things are going to be fine,” Tommy said. 

From that day on, Tommy tries to talk to as many patients as he can, to show them that he is doing well after treatment, and they can, too. 

“I wanted to always show strength to our patients, especially the ones that saw me sitting in the chair one day and saw me working on the floor the next,” Tommy said. “I wanted to give them the courage to realize you can still live and work with cancer.” 

Tommy also reflects back on all of the prayers and well wishes he has received from family and friends. 

“My family was very supportive of everything and I owe them my life, my immediate and work family were always there pushing me to get better each day,” Tommy said. 

“My goal is to share my experience so that patients can see that cancer is not the end game,” Tommy added. “I believe that surviving is a state of mind and giving up is not an option.” 

Learn more about colon cancer care at Northside.   


*The health story shared here may portray atypical results of survival for this type of cancer, given its severity and stage. Atypical results are considered surviving a cancer that has less than a 50 percent five-year survival rate. Patients should consult an expert to discuss specific treatment plans and the possible outcomes before making medical decisions.



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