Sharing Mayo Clinic

Stories from patients, family, friends and Mayo Clinic staff

Cancer Archive

March 23rd, 2015 · Leave a Comment

From ‘Shock’ to Hope – Young Woman Shares Her Breast Cancer Journey

By Hoyt Finnamore

Dawn DeCook-Gibson shares her story of breast cancer treatment at Mayo Clinic.. In her early 30s and with “a wonderful child, wonderful husband and a great career,” Dawn DeCook-Gibson says the last thing she expected was a breast cancer diagnosis. Following the initial shock of the news, Dawn, from Chandler, Arizona, sought out doctors at Mayo Clinic and was guided through her treatment and recovery by Donald Northfelt, M.D., her oncologist, and Barbara Pockaj, M.D., her surgeon.

“I was diagnosed with stage 2b lobular carcinoma breast cancer last year,” she says. “I was in shock … everything just seemed like it was perfect, and then the diagnosis came in. Honestly, it stopped me in my tracks.”

One of her family members had received care at Mayo’s Arizona campus and recommended that Dawn do the same. “She was adamant that I go to Mayo Clinic,” Dawn says.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Arizona Campus, Breast Cancer, Dr Barbara Pockaj, Dr Donald Northfelt, mastectomy


March 10th, 2015 · Leave a Comment

This Selfie Brought to You by Colon Cancer Screening

By Hoyt Finnamore

Jane Jacobs, colon cancer survivor, poses for a strong arm selfie.Twelve years after her diagnosis, Jane Jacobs knows the value of finding and treating colon cancer early and is participating in Fight Colorectal Cancer's #StrongArmSelfie campaign.


Jane Jacobs understands the squeamishness some people have as they consider going through tests to check for colon cancer. "No one wants to think about or talk about their colon," she says. "You don't see it. Its job is hardly glamorous. It tends to be part of the body people would rather forget about."

But after being diagnosed and successfully treated for early-stage colon cancer at age 40, Jane, who works in Media Support Services at Mayo Clinic, strongly encourages others to get past their hesitancy and get a colonoscopy.

"The bottom line is that the colon cancer screening process is not as bad as people make it out to be," she says. "It's a fairly straightforward test that can make the difference between an early diagnosis, when the disease can often be more easily treated, and a severe, sometimes life-threatening, illness."  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: colon cancer, Colonoscopy, colorectal surgery, StrongArmSelfie


February 19th, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Breaking Away From Pain With the Help of ‘The Scrambler’

By Hoyt Finnamore

KarenSafranek1000Participating in a clinical trial gave Karen Safranek a solution to her decade-long struggle with peripheral neuropathy 

Karen Safranek didn't take a worry-free step for 10 years. Severe peripheral neuropathy — a side effect of breast cancer treatment she received in 2002 — left her with constant burning, tingling, numbness and pain in both her feet.

Over time, Karen tried dozens of treatments to rid herself of the discomfort. Nothing worked. So in 2012 when she found out about a clinical research trial available at Mayo Clinic for people who had peripheral neuropathy after chemotherapy, she was interested, but not optimistic.

"I tried so many things. Anything a doctor recommended or heard about, or anything I heard about, I'd give it a try if I could," Karen says. "But years past, and the pain didn't get any better. By 2011, life was not good. I was analyzing my house to figure out where we could put a wheelchair ramp. At that time, I thought it wouldn't be much longer before I couldn't walk anymore."  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Breast Cancer, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Peripheral Neuropathy, Rochester Campus


February 18th, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Faith and Mayo Clinic Help Cancer Survivor Overcome Multiple Health Battles

By Paul Scotti

Mayo Clinic patient Donald Jones, of Ponte Vedra, Florida, with his wife.

Mayo Clinic patient Donald Jones, of Ponte Vedra, Florida, with his wife, Beth.

When 53-year-old Donald Jones of Ponte Vedra, Florida, found out he had lung cancer, the former smoker accepted it as a challenge that he was prepared to fight and win. Little did he know the other serious health issues that lay ahead, which would create serious new challenges for him over the next year.

An avid golfer and hiker, Donald could tell something wasn’t right with his breathing after a hiking trip to the Smoky Mountains in 2013. A visit to his physician resulted in tests that showed a spot on his lung. It was cancer. He called Mayo Clinic for an appointment with a pulmonologist. There, he was told he’d need surgery to remove the lung tumor. For about three months after the surgery, everything seemed fine, and he was fortunate not to require additional radiation or chemotherapy to prevent recurrence of his cancer.

What came next began a series of medical events that would threaten even the most optimistic patient’s resolve. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Brain Tumor, cancer, Florida Campus, Lung Cancer


January 16th, 2015 · Leave a Comment

New Procedure Helps Patient Strike Back Against Cancer

By Hoyt Finnamore

Bill Steele, a patient at Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus, shares his story about his battle against Stage 4A cancer in the throat area without undergoing radiation or chemotherapy. In the video he produced, he explains how his surgical care team, led by Michael Hinni, M.D., a Mayo head and neck cancer surgeon, used transoral laser microsurgery to treat his cancer and help maintain his quality of his life.



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Tags: Arizona Campus, cancer, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Transoral Laser Microsurgery


January 7th, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Facing Breast Cancer: Lynn Gallett’s story

By Hoyt Finnamore

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.



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Tags: Arizona Campus, Breast Cancer, Chemotherapy, Dr Donald Northfelt, Dr Barbara Pockaj


January 2nd, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Becoming Whole Again After Cancer Treatment

By Susana Shephard

Kristine Long, a patient at Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus, has had an incredible journey as a three-time Hodgkin's lymphoma survivor. In the course of her struggle, she has also overcome congestive heart failure and subsequent voice impairment.

In the video below, she explains how the care provided by her Mayo Clinic physicians, James Slack, M.D., a hematologist; D. Eric Steidley, M.D., a cardiologist; and David Lott, M.D., an otorhinolaryngologist, along with their care teams, has made her a whole person again. She also talks before and after repair to her vocal chords about what that procedure has meant to her personally and how it's given her renewed confidence as well as giving her voice back.



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Tags: Hodgkins lymphoma, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Voice Impairment, Arizona Campus


December 12th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

From ‘Pick a Plot’ to Watching His Son Graduate

By Hoyt Finnamore

Read time: 4 minutes

Ron Christian has been able to watch his young children grow up thanks to brain surgery at Mayo Clinic.

Written by Ron Christian

“Pick a plot and get your papers in order, you’ll be dead in a month.” That’s what the local neurosurgeon said. Those words served as my wake-up call. While my wife wept, I became angry. We had three very young children, and I was determined to see them grow up.

Weeks before, I had two seizures. The second seizure resulted in hospitalization, and within hours I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The local neurosurgeon did a biopsy and then gave his instructions on how to spend the little bit of time I had left … finding a plot.

After meeting with some of the best neurosurgeons in the country, we visited Mayo Clinic’s Fredric Meyer, M.D.  Dr. Meyer was direct and to the point. He stated that although it was risky, the only option to survive was aggressive surgery. Even then, the odds for long term survival weren’t good. While not hopeful, at least Dr. Meyer was honest. When I asked him how many surgeries he did in a year, Dr. Meyer told me he averaged about 1,500 brain surgeries annually. He’s a no-nonsense, intelligent man and brilliant surgeon. We scheduled surgery for the next week.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Brain Tumor, cancer, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Neurology & Neurosurgery


November 17th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

Josh Russell Faces His Toughest Battle

By Hoyt Finnamore

Joshua Russell and his fiancé, Ashley, take a break during a horse ride. Josh Russell spent four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. But he says his toughest battle took place years after he left the military.

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 »

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Tags: Chemotherapy, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Testicular Cancer, Urology, Dr Bradley Leibovich


October 2nd, 2014 · Leave a Comment

Orchestrating Cancer Treatment Not An Obstacle For International Musician

By Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss

Alvaro Gomez plays his violin. Alvaro Gomez knows people in several continents and has access to health care in the U.S., Chile and Europe. When the Central Florida resident faced a prostate cancer diagnosis, he polled his acquaintances and doctors near and far and came up with one answer: Mayo Clinic.

“I was fortunate that after taking into account the advice from friends and doctors, I came to the conclusion that the best place to go was Mayo Clinic, only an hour-and-a-half from my house,” Gomez says.

Gomez leads a busy life as a violinist, music instructor and orchestra conductor in Florida, Chile, Brazil and Italy. Now, just outside busy Orlando, Fla., he directs his own music academy, conducts the Florida Young Artists Orchestra, and teaches music at Trinity Prep in Winter Park. Internationally, he leads the annual Luis Sigall Music Competition in Viña del Mar, in his native Chile. He also conducts a chamber orchestra at Festival Villa-Lobos in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and each summer conducts at L’Orfeo Music Festival in Vipiteno, Italy.

In part due to his busy schedule, Gomez took time for a routine health checkup. Although he felt fine at the time, a routine blood test at age 56 turned up high PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels. His family doctor recommended a biopsy, which revealed cancer cells, and put him on a quest to find the best place to receive treatment.

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Tags: Central Florida, Dr Wehle, Jacksonville, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, minimally invasive surgery, Orlando, Prostate Cancer, prostatectomy, Robotic Surgery, MayoClinicFL