In the summer of 2020, a grateful Lahey patient and generous donor who wishes to remain anonymous noticed something new and unusual on his skin. Over the years, he had developed many different kinds of skin cancers, from basal and squamous cell carcinomas, to more serious cases of melanoma. Because of this, he has a strong, established relationship with his care team, particularly with Laura Sowerby, MD, that keeps him connected to Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, where he travels several times a year for appointments, despite having relocated many years ago. “I love my dermatology doctors at Lahey,” he said. “I wouldn’t dream of going anywhere else.”
A long-time patient of Dr. Sowerby, he deeply trusts and values her expertise, and has communicated with her frequently over the years about his health. For Dr. Sowerby, the feelings are mutual. “He is a great patient. We respect each other tremendously,” she says. “The day he called me last summer with his concerns was the day I saw him.”
At the patient’s appointment, Dr. Sowerby confirmed that the unusual growth was a rare form of melanoma, known as sarcomatoid melanoma. A serious and uncommon diagnosis, Dr. Sowerby knew it would require immediate attention to minimize the risk of spreading, becoming even more serious.
To tackle the treatment, Dr. Sowerby utilized an innovative, team approach. Convening with oncologists and ear, nose, and throat specialists, together Dr. Sowerby and the patient discussed his options. “He is an older patient, but very vibrant,” says Dr. Sowerby. “When talking through our options, it was important for us to find a treatment that wouldn’t give him side effects that take away the joy of life, or who he is.”
A little more than six months following the diagnosis, the treatment plan was successful and his melanoma is clear. He is leading an active life, and spends his days serving on various boards and committees and enjoying time with his family. “I credit Dr. Sowerby with saving my life,” he says. “And for that, I couldn’t be more grateful.”
In appreciation for the care he received at Lahey, the patient and his family’s foundation made a generous gift to the Dermatology Department in honor of Dr. Sowerby and her exceptional care. “In the past few years, a wide range of new technologies and systems have emerged for treating various types of skin cancers,” said Adam Lipworth, MD, chair of dermatology. “Over time, some of these tools will prove much more beneficial than others, but in these early stages, it can be challenging to know which are the most important to invest in,” he explained. “Having funding from this gift will allow us to analyze the new treatments available, with full focus on risks and benefits of each potential technology investment, helping us remain at the cutting edge of skin cancer management.”
For Dr. Sowerby, the gift was an honor and an incredibly humbling gesture. “Treating patients is very rewarding for me,” she said. “It is our mission at Lahey to provide the highest level of care. Through his gift, the patient is enabling us to grow in that mission, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
“Dr. Sowerby is the best there is,” said the patient fondly. “My family and I are honored to make this gift in her honor, in the hope that it will allow Lahey’s dermatology professionals to expand their leadership in patient treatment for many years to come.”