John Sodoma has walked a lot of miles in his career – it comes with the territory when you work in the golf industry.
For the past decade, Sodoma has helped golfers navigate one of the best courses in the country as a caddie at the Pinehurst Resort. His days were filled with plenty of steps and often included more than one bag.
Last spring, Sodoma said he started noticing problems with his energy levels. Walking 18 holes wasn’t as easy as it had always been.
“One of the reasons why I figured out I wasn’t 100% was COVID-19 and the pandemic in general,” he said. “I wasn’t caddying, but I was playing and carrying my own bag. Usually, I have no problem with it but that changed last spring.”
Sodoma, 51, went to see his primary care physician, who recommended he get a colonoscopy.
Soon after, Sodoma found himself taking advice from others – a large group of multitalented physicians, nurses and staff who make up the FirstHealth Cancer Services team.
“They found a lime-sized tumor in my lower intestine, and on July 27, 2020, I had surgery to remove it,” Sodoma said.
Along the way, Sodoma, who moved to Pinehurst from Philadelphia, became close with surgeon Ray Washington, M.D., and medical oncologist Charles Kuzma, M.D. The bond over sports helped.
“Dr. Washington was my surgeon and Dr. Kuzma was my oncologist, and we hit it off immediately. Dr. Washington went to St. Joseph’s University, and Dr. Kuzma went to St. Joseph’s and Temple University, so they were both Eagles fans,” Sodoma said. “My wife jokes that our first appointment was about 45 minutes longer than it needed to be because we were talking football.”
Like Sodoma might help a golfer looking for a way out of a bunker, Washington, Kuzma and the Cancer Services team helped craft his surgical plan and post-procedure treatment plan to beat colorectal cancer.
“They were always available and made sure to explain things to me in ways I could understand. Every person in that building is amazing and treated me with the utmost care and understanding,” Sodoma said. “After my surgery, once I started preventive chemotherapy treatments, every person treated me like I was the only one there. Every infusion nurse was amazing. I can’t imagine what they see every day, and then they stay the way they are. It’s baffling, but they do it. They are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever been around. They made this process – which is horrible, and I wouldn’t wish on anybody – as easy as it could have been.”
Kuzma said working with Sodoma was an “absolute pleasure.”
“He approached the challenges associated with his postoperative chemotherapy with amazing grace and humility. John’s appointments with me were usually Monday mornings, so we would frequently commiserate about the previous day’s Eagles’ loss or the current sad state of affairs of Philadelphia’s sporting teams,” Kuzma said. “John was an inspiration to our entire cancer center team.”
Following his recovery from cancer and a hip replacement, Sodoma is no longer caddying, but he said he’s still playing golf and working again. He’s also advocating for others to get routine screenings like colonoscopies, especially if they are dealing with any symptoms of colorectal cancer.
Colorectal polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. Someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it.
That is why getting screened regularly for colorectal cancer is so important.
If you have symptoms, they may include:
Blood in or on your stool;
Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away;
Losing weight and you don’t know why.
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor.
For more information about colorectal cancer and how you can stay healthy, visit www.firsthealth.org.
Courtesy photo of John Sodoma/Contributed.