February 22nd, 2017
At 81 years old, Harold Rogers has had quite a ride. For 30 years, the St. Mary’s, Georgia, resident was an air traffic controller and corporate jet pilot. But nothing prepared Harold for a diagnosis in early 2009 of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells inside bone marrow, which is considered incurable.
“I’d never heard of multiple myeloma. My primary care doctor said, ‘The good news is that it’s treatable. But it’s not curable,’” Harold says. “He then recommended I go to a cancer specialist.”
Harold opted to stay close to home and began chemotherapy in February 2009. When the treatment was over several months later, he was left with side effects that prompted him to get an evaluation at a different health care facility. That’s when he turned to Mayo Clinic. Read the rest of this entry »
January 7th, 2015
When Lynn Gallett was diagnosed with breast cancer, she had a number of concerns and decisions to make. In the video below, Lynn discusses the process and her experience at Mayo Clinic.
November 17th, 2014
In early 2011, Josh noticed a bump in his stomach around his navel. He thought the bump was a hernia, and his doctor initially agreed. Josh was scheduled for surgery, but pre-op blood work revealed surprising news. Russell’s “hernia” was actually a tumor. He had testicular cancer.
“I was in shock,” says the Benton, Wisconsin, resident. But he didn’t have time to dwell on that. “I got the news on a Friday and started chemotherapy on Monday.”
Four months of treatment did little to slow the cancer. In fact, it was spreading.
“I had tumors from my groin to the lower part of my throat,” says Josh, whose prognosis looked grim. “After I finished chemo, they gave me six months to live. They wanted me to go home and start hospice.”
But that wasn’t a prognosis that Josh, then just 30 years old, or his family were willing to accept. Read the rest of this entry »
May 16th, 2014
Written by Eunice Nishimura
My journey started innocently enough as a neck strain I received while playing with my daughter’s golden retriever in October 2010. As the year ended, the discomfort had increased, and I sought out my physician in January 2011. He set up appointments for MRI and MRA exams. Once done, I quickly ended up at a level I Trauma Center, where I was diagnosed with a tumor on my C3 spine. The full diagnosis was stage IV non-small cell lung cancer with spine and lymph node metastases. The lung tumor was inoperable due to its proximity to the pulmonary aorta. Within 48 hours, the lymph node was removed, and I began radiation on the spine tumor, which lasted 3 weeks.
During that period, a cousin in Southern California suggested I contact Mayo Clinic in Arizona for a second opinion and gave me the name of Dr. Helen Ross. I had my consultation with Dr. Ross on Feb. 7.
From our first meeting with Dr. Ross, both my husband and I developed a trust and respect for her that continues to this day. Dr. Ross presents a forthright, open and considered respect for me not only as a patient but also an individual. She does not sugarcoat her evaluations. She always questions what has been done in the past and then takes it one step further. Read the rest of this entry »
March 7th, 2014
When I arrived at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., that September day almost five years ago, my care for colon cancer was fractured and really a mess. I had suffered through a second bout of the disease, when the cancer jumped from the colon to the lung. After surgery to bisect the upper lobe of the left lung, I had just embarked on a six-month program of chemotherapy.
A local hospital had bungled the pathology from the original colon surgery in February 2008, discovered only when I went to a facility in Texas for a second opinion. As it turned out, at the time of the original colon resection, a trace of cancer was evident in a lymph node, doctors there discovered. Had my oncologist at the time possessed that information, he would have immediately placed me on a course of chemo. He didn't, and suddenly I had become a Stage IV cancer patient for the worst of reasons: medical error.
Just as bad, the surgeon who performed the original colon surgery did such a poor job sewing up my abdomen that it created an incision hernia. When she fixed the hernia, she told me she had inserted some mesh to pull the area together. That turned out to be false. The hernia surgery had to performed again. This time she demurred and sent me to another surgeon, who did the job properly.
No apology from the doctor or the local hospital has ever been forthcoming.
In the late summer of 2009, the second opinion confirming the spot on my lung, the biopsy, the surgery itself, and my first chemo sessions were reminded me of the times I was given flu shots in the pharmacy of a Safeway. My anxiety was at an untenable level, and as now the CEO of my own health care, I had learned an important lesson: the more doctors, clinics and hospitals involved without access to the same computer records, the greater chance for something to go wrong.
January 8th, 2014
A routine colonoscopy in 2007 saved Richard Rubenstein’s life. Richard, a retired executive from Scottsdale, Ariz., had expected to receive a clean bill of health, especially since he had no alarming symptoms or any family history of colorectal malignancies. Instead he received shocking news – he had stage 3 rectal cancer.
Richard decided to pursue his treatment at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. Specialists recommended radiation treatment and chemotherapy prior to surgery, with the hopes of reducing his four-centimeter tumor. The treatment proved successful and surgeons removed a significantly smaller mass. More chemotherapy followed and ultimately he had a final surgery to reverse his ileostomy. Read the rest of this entry »
January 7th, 2014
Ginette Weiner began her fight against breast cancer in 2008, and underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. She is a patient at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and under the ongoing care of Donald Northfelt, M.D. She brings a fresh, honest and engaging perspective to patients and their loved ones with the following advice for breast cancer patients and their families.
Advice for Loved Ones
1. Do not tell us cancer or things like it "happen for a reason." A well-meaning family member said this to me shortly after I was first diagnosed. It literally took my breath away, and left me feeling cold and numb. We feel as if we're already being somehow "punished" by the universe as it is. Telling us there is a "reason" we have cancer is not helpful. (Did I get cancer because I'm a bad person?) I don't believe my cancer happened for a "reason." It just happened. Better to say things like, "I'm sorry this happened to you," or "It must feel so unfair, I'm sorry." And leave it at that.
2. Create a safe atmosphere (non-judgmental, non-critical), for us to be allowed and encouraged to vent, rage and share the wide range of feelings we have, some of which may be seen as childish, fearful or irrational. Practice becoming a good listener. Allow for silence. You can silently be there for us sometimes, unconditionally accepting of us. Men often feel they have to help, to "fix it." You don't have to fix it. Being quietly there and letting us know you're there for us for the long haul, regardless of whether we're sad or angry, these things are helpful. Read the rest of this entry »
November 8th, 2013
Judy Phillips found hope when hope was running out thanks to a physician willing to try new (and old) treatments, a team of "wonderful nurses," and the "steadfast support and optimism" of her husband.
Written by Judy Phillips
I am a seven-year survivor of multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the bone marrow. Myeloma is a relatively rare cancer, so many people who are diagnosed with it have no idea what they are being told they have. I had heard of it but didn’t remember what it was exactly. All I knew was that it was something terrible, and I didn’t want it. My husband and I promptly burst into tears when we heard the diagnosis in the doctor’s office.
It was several weeks before I could stop crying. Every time I thought about the fact that I was now a cancer patient a fresh round of tears came into my eyes. Finally, when I got tired of crying -- and my husband begged me to stop -- I started focusing on what I could do to eliminate this scourge from my life. Although my first doctor, a hematologist/oncologist in Virginia, told me I had three to five years to live, I refused to believe this. I was determined to get cured. To this end, I accepted treatment with an aggressive drug that had just been approved by the FDA.
Unfortunately, I was not able to tolerate the new drug -- I experienced excruciatingly painful peripheral neuropathy in my legs, making it difficult for me to even get off the couch. I was tried on another new drug but continued to have intolerable side effects. I could tell by the look on my doctor’s face that he was running out of ideas.
November 4th, 2013
It’s tough for anyone to deal with a cancer diagnosis, especially someone at the age of 18. Todd Blake, a Jacksonville, Fla., native, was just beginning life as a freshman at the University of Florida when he was diagnosed with late-stage Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a serious form of blood cancer. Fast-forward through countless treatments and multiple relapses, Todd decided to make the most of his situation by starting a nonprofit organization to help other young adults deal with their cancer diagnosis. Now, his wife, Maja, has joined the battle against cancer — recently joining Mayo Clinic’s Cancer Center research team and pursuing future cures for several types of blood cancer.
October 14th, 2013
In December of 2010, Antoinette discovered a large lump in her breast. Alarmed by her finding, she quickly sought medical care and was told it was benign. She felt initially reassured, but lingering doubts over the next six months eventually made her seek a second opinion. Unfortunately, those doubts became a reality as she received a devastating diagnosis – breast cancer.
Antoinette chose to start her “hopeful journey” battling breast cancer at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. She met first with Barbara Pockaj, M.D., a surgeon, who spent several hours explaining the recommended surgical procedure – a double mastectomy – and gave Antoinette the knowledge needed to understand what to expect. Six months of chemotherapy under the supervision of oncologist Donald Northfelt, M.D., followed, and then six weeks of radiation therapy.
In this video, Antoinette shares her journey battling breast cancer. She comes to realize how taking one day at a time, arming yourself with knowledge, being your own patient advocate, and seeking a support system such as family, friends and care providers gave her hope in the midst of a cancer diagnosis.