Arkansan’s Golf Swing Breaks Back, Leads to Myeloma Diagnosis

By Linda Haymes

He also thought he was in good health.

“I had a golf tournament coming up and I was swinging an eight iron in my yard and I broke my back,” said Bennett, now 53. “At the time, I didn’t really know it was broken; I just thought I’d popped something.”

His primary care doctor referred him to a neurologist in Fort Smith. Meanwhile, the pain became worse.

“It finally got so bad, my wife and I called an ambulance to come get me.”

The neurosurgeon told him his back was broken and put him in a brace but also mentioned there was a bone lesion and ordered a PETscan.

Bennett then saw Varant Arzoumanian, M.D., an oncologist in Fort Smith, who diagnosed him with myeloma but declined to treat him.

“He said he wasn’t going to treat me and that he was going to send me to the UAMS Myeloma Center instead; he said this was the place to be,” Bennett said. “And he was right.”

Bennett was diagnosed in July 2017 with low-risk myeloma and was treated with chemotherapy, two stem cell transplants, and two additional rounds of chemotherapy. Today, he is in complete remission, and in maintenance, seeing his physician Frits van Rhee, M.D., Ph.D., every four months for testing and checkups.

“Everything is dedicated to the type of cancer I have,” he said. “I’m fortunate I only live 2 ½ hours away and can come here for treatment. Dr. van Rhee pretty much told me, give me a year of your life and I’m going to get you back.’ And he did.”

“When you get a diagnosis like that, your world crumbles and you don’t know what to expect,” Bennett’s wife, Buffy, said. “But his care at the UAMS Myeloma Center has been impeccable.  Our first visit here, we left feeling so much better. We had so much hope. The team, including Dr. van Rhee’s nurse Dianne Glendening, was amazing from the minute we checked in. They were all so positive and uplifting. And sometimes, they’ll call us to check on him.”

That caring attitude was evident even before treatment for myeloma began. First, Bennett needed surgery to stabilize his spine. While in the hospital after back surgery, he developed a fever.

“The minute there was the slightest complication, Dr. van Rhee was in our room and he and his team took over immediately,” Buffy Bennett said.

“Between Dr. van Rhee, his nurses and everyone in Infusion 4, we got wonderful care,” Wade Bennett said. “Dr. van Rhee truly cares about his patients; you’re not just a number.”

“He is off the charts,” agreed Buffy Bennett, who works as a technician in cardiology near Fort Smith. “I can’t rate him; they don’t make the ratings high enough. There are no words to describe it.”