Former college basketball standout Thomas Craig has a winning team. When the team members take to the floor, though, they’re wearing medical scrubs rather than basketball jerseys. Craig’s team consists of primary-care physician John Doolittle, M.D., cardiologist Stephen Peters, M.D., medical oncologist Stacy D’Andre, M.D., gastroenterologist David Arenson, M.D., and surgical oncologist Gregory Graves, M.D.
“I call them my basketball team because they coordinate my care so well and they’ve scored a lot of points for me,” quips Craig, a Sutter Roseville patient who survived three serious medical conditions thanks to responsive medical treatment.
Since 2011, Craig has acknowledged his gratitude with gifts to Sutter Roseville Medical Foundation, including a major five-year commitment to help fund expansion of the Sutter Roseville Outpatient Infusion Center, in which he underwent successful chemotherapy.
Craig’s team was mobilized in November 2011 after he visited Dr. Peters for a cardiopulmonary checkup and lab test. Dr. Doolittle called Craig the following morning expressing concern that the test had revealed low hemoglobin. Because of Craig’s bout with intestinal cancer in 1995, Dr. Doolittle referred him to Dr. Arenson for gastrointestinal analysis. Craig’s symptom of increased burping prompted Dr. Arenson to arrange for an endoscopy the following day.
“The endoscopy showed that I had esophageal cancer,” Craig explains. “Dr. Arenson scheduled me for a PET (positron emission tomography) scan, and advised me to see Dr. Graves, an excellent cancer surgeon who told me I had a large tumor.”
“Dr. Graves said, ‘we ought to try to shrink it first with chemotherapy before we talk about surgery.’ He asked Dr. D’Andre in oncology to squeeze me into her busy schedule because he highly recommended her. Dr. D’Andre specializes in treatment of seniors and esophageal cancers, so her background was ideally suited for me.”
The chemo infusion was performed in Roseville at Craig’s request. A PET scan following the first three-week chemotherapy cycle showed amazing results.
“Dr. D’Andre told me there no longer was any sign of cancer,” Craig says. “I went through two more chemo drug infusion series, and because I had clean results, Dr. D’Andre converted me to Xeloda pills.”
No surgery was necessary. Craig’s oral chemotherapy ended in February 2013, and seven consecutive PET scans reaffirm that he is in remission.
“I was very fortunate. I tolerated the chemo very well, and didn’t have any bad side effects. I’m feeling pretty normal now, except I’m getting older all the time,” Craig jokes. “I’m now less concerned about cancer than I am about my heart, because the triple bypass surgery I had was done 25 years ago.”
Craig, who retired after a 38-year career in sales, personnel recruiting and marketing administration with Dow Chemical Co., had grown up in East McKeesport, Pennsylvania, in coal mining and steel producing country east of Pittsburgh. He was naturally drawn to metallurgical engineering, in which he majored at Carnegie Tech (now known as Carnegie-Mellon University) in Pittsburgh.
Following his freshmen year there, he took a summer job as a laborer at a U.S. Steel Corp. mill, where he crawled on his hands and knees in the brick catacombs underneath the open hearth furnaces, shoveling out charred limestone and coal debris.
He played basketball on a scholarship throughout four years at Carnegie Tech, and additionally signed up during his junior and senior years with the varsity football team, for which he played both defensive and offensive end positions. For good measure, Craig also played on the intercollegiate golf team.
Over the course of four years as a basketball forward, Craig put 1,130 points on the board, distinguishing him as the university’s all-time leading scorer. Collier’s magazine selected him for its first-team small-college football All-American roster in 1952, and Carnegie Tech named him Varsity Athlete of the Year in 1953.
As Craig graduated in 1953, he received 15 job offers and chose Dow Chemical, which allowed him to volunteer for the U.S. Army draft to fulfill his military obligation. Craig served most of his two-year enlistment in the Ordnance Corps at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and in 1954 he married his wife, LaVerne, a registered nurse.
After being discharged from military service in 1955, he was assigned to Dow Chemical offices in various locations, including Midland, Michigan, Cincinnati and San Francisco, where he was general sales manager.
Craig’s children settled in Northern California, and he relocated his father, Blaine, from Pittsburgh. Craig and LaVerne have been Sutter patients since 1990, and Blaine had five-year life-extending treatment for lymphoma at Sutter.
“I have a great deal of faith and respect for Sutter Health, and my gifts to the Sutter Roseville Medical Foundation reflect my confidence that this first-class institution makes good use of contributions,” Craig says. “My PET scan results make me feel as good as I did during my best basketball game, when we won and I scored 30 points against Pitt in 1952.”