Salter Commends NMMC Cancer Care
As a print journalist and syndicated columnist for 40 years, Sid Salter of Starkville is seldom at a loss for words. That changed in May 2017 when life as he knew it took a serious detour.
Salter had traveled to south Mississippi for three speaking engagements. After the first one that evening, he wasn’t feeling well. The next morning, he still wasn’t feeling well but determined to push through the day because it was too late to back out. Back in Starkville that Saturday, blood tests at an urgent care clinic revealed a white blood count of 35,000. That Monday, he reported to the Longest Student Health Center at Mississippi State University, where he serves as the university’s Chief Communications Officer and Director of Public Affairs. By then his white blood count was 50,000, and Dr. Philip Pearson sent him directly to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo.
“Dr. Pearson sent me to Tupelo to see a hematologist, but no alarm bells went off in my head,” Salter said. “When I got off the elevator on the fifth floor and saw the sign for the oncology unit, I began to understand where we were headed.” Dr. Jiahuai Tan ran further tests and diagnosed Salter with Stage IV Burkitt lymphoma, the fastest growing human tumor which is quickly fatal if left untreated. “Dr. Tan came to my room around midnight and said we needed to start chemotherapy immediately,” he said. “He explained that it is a very toxic chemotherapy and would require me to stay in the hospital. So for 14 days, I got around-the-clock, five or six bags hanging at a time, chemotherapy at NMMC. I also got intrathecal chemotherapy, in which anticancer drugs were injected directly into the tissue covering my brain and spinal cord.”
For more than eight months, Salter spent every third week at NMMC receiving chemotherapy as a hospital patient for six to eight days at a time. When Dr. Tan recommended he see an expert at M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas, for a second opinion, his treatment plan was only slightly tweaked. The doctor told Salter he was receiving the best care possible at NMMC and he need not return to Texas.
Between treatments he had blood tests and injections at NMMC Cancer Care in Starkville. “Anytime I got in trouble, they were kind of my lifeline. They were marvelous caregivers, plus they had a high level of compassion,” Salter said. “I had severe nausea and every other indignity you hear of that accompanies chemo. I was so weak, which made it hard to travel to Tupelo. The staff in Starkville became like family.” Being treated in Starkville also allowed him to work as much as possible between hospitalizations. “It made my life seem a little more normal,” he said.
Today, Salter is back working full time and doing well. “About 58% of my body’s cells were involved with the cancer, so I got very close to not making it,” he said. “I give credit to the good Lord, Dr. Tan and all the people at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo and Starkville. There’s no question they saved my life, and I know how lucky I was.”