WAYNESBORO, Pa. – When Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner Andrew Lininger of Summit Gastroenterology attended Waynesboro Area Senior High School, business teacher and basketball coach Tom Hoffman cut him from the varsity team.
“I didn’t keep the guy that ended up being, probably, the most important guy in my life for a while,” said Hoffman.
More than a decade later, however, Lininger became a key part of a roster that would help execute one of the most important plays of Hoffman’s life – his colon cancer diagnosis at age 48, treatment and recovery.
In Fall 2017, Hoffman approached Lininger to see if he would speak to his class about his career as a gastroenterologist.
“Around that same point in time, he had seen me as a patient,” noted Lininger.
Hoffman had experienced an “alarming episode” that both his wife, Jenny, and primary care provider agreed wasn’t normal. So, he made an appointment with Lininger.
“That was an easy fit for me – I knew Andrew so, there was a level of comfort.”
Lininger listened to Hoffman’s concerns and explained a variety of things could have caused the symptoms he experienced. However, he urged Hoffman to have a colonoscopy since he was close to the recommended screening age of 50.
Hoffman preferred to wait until basketball season and Christmas were over so, his colonoscopy was scheduled for late March.
“I just went in for a minor inconvenience to my day and, obviously, some things changed not too long after that,” Hoffman recalled.
His colonoscopy was performed by Dr. Fawaz Hakki of Summit Gastroenterology. When it was complete, Dr. Hakki informed Hoffman and his wife that he had removed a polyp that didn’t look good.
As part of routine protocol, the polyp was sent for testing and a follow-up appointment was scheduled.
At the follow-up appointment, Hoffman learned he had cancer, but that it was a “best-case scenario.”
“All I heard was cancer,” Hoffman noted, who said Dr. Hakki explained, “Your margins are coming back at 95-percent clean. For a 48-year-old, the five percent is what I lose sleep over.”
“If there’s one cell or one residual piece of tissue, that could regrow and overgrow and, generally speaking, with that second occurrence (of cancer), it’s a much more lethal situation,” added Lininger.
While Hoffman’s prognosis was good, he was faced with the fear of the diagnosis, the weight of having to tell his wife and children and, worse yet, how to tell his mom.
“My dad passed away from pancreatic cancer,” explained Hoffman. “I’m pretty sure he was 49 when he passed away. But he was 48 when he found out. And I was 48. The hardest part, honestly, was telling my mom. That was a tough one.”
Later that spring, Hoffman had a colon resection performed. On May 16, 2018, he received the call that the surgery had been successful, and he was free from cancer.
Dr. Hakki and Lininger told Hoffman if he had waited until he turned 50 to get his first colonoscopy, his case would have been much more severe.
“So, if I’d have waited, basically, a year and a half, I’d have been in deep trouble,” he explained, urging others who may be having concerns to talk with their providers and get checked out. “Go. I don’t know what else to say. It could be life or death.”
Summit Health is a non-profit network of hospitals and physician practices dedicated to building a healthier community.
As Franklin County's leading healthcare provider, Summit Health offers family care, specialists, lab and imaging services, a fitness center, two walk-in care centers, and two award-winning hospitals.