Sharing Mayo Clinic

Stories from patients, family, friends and Mayo Clinic staff

Cancer Archive

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


September 24th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

Overcoming the Hospital ‘Fear Factor’ to Catch Cancer Early

By Hoyt Finnamore

Michael Tessmer discovered he had prostate cancer early enough to lead to successful treatment. Michael Tessmer got out of his parents' car and stared at the hospital building before him. His parents had brought him to a hospital in his home state of Iowa for the first of 14 surgeries to repair a cleft palate. Each time, young Michael would be dropped off on the front steps of the hospital, and he would not see his parents again until the hospital released him.

"I don't know if that was hospital policy or what," he says. "But I'd be down there anywhere from two weeks to a month each time, all alone."

That did little to instill trust and confidence in the medical world. In fact, it did just the opposite. "I was terrified of doctors and hospitals," Michael says. "I'm not ungrateful that they fixed me. I'm very happy they did.” But he admits it left him with questions about that approach.

So after the last of his surgeries, Michael stayed as far away from doctors, nurses and other health care providers as he could -- going in to be seen only when it was absolutely necessary. Thankfully, that changed after one of Michael's daughters decided to go to nursing school. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Dr Matthew Tollefsun, Dr Michael Price, Dr Nancy Erickson, Mayo Clinic Health System, Men's Health, Prostate Cancer


September 11th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

Mayo Clinic Clinical Trial Helps Physician Take On Multiple Myeloma

By Paul Scotti

Dr. Mike Mass undergoes treatment for multiple myeloma at Mayo Clinic in Florida.

When 69-year-old allergist and rheumatologist Mike Mass. M.D., was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in August 2013, he quickly realized that being the patient and trusting the advice of a fellow physician with expertise in a disease outside of his realm of expertise would be a challenge.

“I’ve always advocated open communications with my patients about their treatment options, as it’s important for the physician and patient to be on the same page,” says Dr. Mass. “Although I’m not a cancer expert, I know enough about the disease to ask lots of questions of my own oncologist on the best treatment options available. It was hard balancing the need to express my opinions without impeding my physician’s own expert medical judgment.”

Dr. Mass was in private practice in the Jacksonville, Florida, area for more than 30 years before going part-time and joining an allergy group practice in 2008. That’s where he worked until his diagnosis in 2013, when he finally decided to retire from practicing medicine. He had known he was at a greater risk for contracting multiple myeloma for many years because of a condition called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance , or MGUS, which he was diagnosed with decades ago. MGUS is a condition in which an abnormal protein (M protein) is found in the blood. That increases the risk of developing multiple myeloma at some point in the patient’s life. Dr. Mass had no symptoms but found out several years ago after some blood work that his M protein levels were at the point where he now had “smoldering myeloma,” an early phase of this cancer condition. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Dr Asher Chanan-Khan, Mayo Clinic in Florida, Multiple Myeloma


September 2nd, 2014 · Leave a Comment

A Golden Dream

By Hoyt Finnamore

Dave and Joan Hittner pose with a historic ambulance in the Matthews Grand Lobby of the Mayo Building in Rochester.

After being diagnosed with cancer, Joan Hittner, along with her husband, David, created an organization to raise money to find a cure. Today, David and daughter Christine continue the work.

In 2011, Joan and David Hittner opened a letter from the Mayo Clinic Department of Development. Inside was a request: Would they consider donating $25 to support cancer research?

The Hittners quickly agreed that $25 wasn’t nearly enough.

“After what we’d just been through, that seemed a minuscule amount,” says David. “We started talking about what more we could do.”

The couple, from the Winona, Minnesota, area, had recently returned from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, where Joan had undergone surgery to remove tumors that had encompassed her pancreas and invaded her intestines.

Joan's battle with cancer had started six years earlier. She’d gone to her doctor with what she thought was a gallbladder problem. Instead, Joan found out she had carcinoid cancer, and she was told surgery was her only treatment option. “The cancer was incurable,” says David, and “chemo and radiation wouldn’t work.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: cancer, Cancer Research, Carcinoid Tumor, Development


August 13th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

Leukemia Survivor Volunteers in a Unique Way to Help Fellow Bone Marrow Transplant Recipients

By Paul Scotti

Charlie Willwerth, a 61 year-old leukemia survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient from St. Augustine, Fla. is taking the necessary steps to help bring life-saving stems cells to others in need of a bone marrow transplant. Some people who overcome a life-threatening illness feel motivated to give something back to those who helped make their recovery possible. Charlie Willwerth, a 61-year-old leukemia survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient from St. Augustine, Florida, is taking steps to help bring life-saving stems cells to others in need of a bone marrow transplant.

Two years out from his bone marrow transplant, and with his leukemia in remission, Charlie recently completed courier training with Be The Match, the world’s largest bone marrow registry, to become a volunteer stem cell courier. His new “job” -- transporting life-saving stem cells from a donor’s location to a matching recipient -- can take him anywhere in the world.

“This is the most direct way I can help others who have helped me get a second chance at life,” says Charlie. “If it wasn’t for my donor, I might not be here today to have the opportunity to help others with needs similar to mine.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Bone Marrow Donor, Bone Marrow Transplant, Dr James Foran, Leukemia, Mayo Clinic in Florida


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