Sharing Mayo Clinic

Stories from patients, family, friends and Mayo Clinic staff

Cancer Archive

Knocking “Care Coordination” Out of the Park

Posted on March 7th, 2014 by mayoclinic

Barry BloomWritten by Barry M. Bloom

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.

That's when Mayo Clinic became involved. Read the rest of this entry »

Trust Your ‘Gut’ When Experiencing Possible Signs of Colorectal Cancer

Posted on February 24th, 2014 by mayoclinic

Grace De La Rosa, with guitar.


Most people think that colorectal cancer is just an old man's disease, perhaps because current medical guidelines recommend regular screening begin at the age of 50. Truth is, this disease doesn't discriminate in age, gender or race.

Grace De La Rosa was 38 when she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Colon Cancer in 2005.  She has no family history of any type of cancer. She's married to a veteran Navy pilot and is a mother of two children, who were 14 and 3 at the time. She was a swimwear model, fitness instructor and fitness competitor. She worked out religiously and ate healthy foods. So that's when De La Rosa was shocked to hear the words, "You have cancer."

She had surgery to remove the golf ball-sized tumor from her colon and received chemotherapy for three consecutive days, every other week, for six months.

Read the rest of this entry »

Her Relay: Overcoming a Childhood Tumor to Being An Advocate for Life

Posted on February 21st, 2014 by mayoclinic

Written by Erin Mobley, Adult BMT Data Specialist at Mayo Clinic in Florida

Erin Mobley at the age of 7 in 1993.

Erin Mobley at the age of 7 in 1993 on News Year's Eve (left) and Easter Sunday (right).

I wanted to go skiing for my seventh birthday, but instead I celebrated in the hospital with family and friends, and a pediatric oncologist. 

Two months earlier, in September 1993, on my first day of first grade, I had gotten sick and had a large amount of blood in my urine. I remember my mom picking me up early from school and taking me to the pediatrician, who promptly sent us to the hospital. Scans revealed a tumor about the size golf ball in my bladder. Using the latest technology available, doctors biopsied the tumor and determined it to be rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft-tissue sarcoma.

I had surgery the next day and soon began chemotherapy as an inpatient, using a treatment protocol established by what is now the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), an international organization devoted to childhood and adolescent cancer research. The chemotherapy treatment regimen required me to spend every other week in the hospital.

My wish to ski came true in March 1994 thanks to Dreams Come True, a local organization that helps children fighting life-threatening diseases fulfill their dreams. My family and I traveled to Winter Park, Co., where we skied, rode snowmobiles, went tubing and built snowmen! The real joy for me was being able to take a break from treatment and just be a kid. Of course, it gave my parents a vacation, too!

Read the rest of this entry »

For One Couple, Expert Neurology Care Makes All the Difference

Posted on January 30th, 2014 by mayoclinic

Barbara and Jim Smith

Mayo Clinic patients Barbara and Jim Smith

In one brief statement, Barbara Smith can sum up the impact that the staff in the Department of Neurology at Mayo Clinic in Arizona had on her and her husband as they faced several difficult and frightening medical problems: "They are our life-changing heroes." 

For 40 years, seizures were just part of life for Barbara. Dealing with them since she was a teen, she always assumed they were caused by epilepsy. But in 2007, the seizures became more frequent and more severe. At the same time, Barbara began having other problems, too. She developed a stutter and often had headaches. Walking became more difficult, and she had unexplained weight loss.

Barbara went to several neurologists. No one could provide her with answers. In desperation on a Friday evening, Barbara's husband, Jim, called Mayo Clinic to see if they could get an appointment. "That phone call changed my life," says Barbara.

Within a week, the couple arrived at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, where Barbara underwent two weeks of evaluation, including five days of observation in the hospital's epilepsy monitoring unit. Part of that evaluation involved using unique imaging technology known as SISCOM, or subtraction ictal SPECT coregistered to MRI. Pioneered at Mayo Clinic, SISCOM is particularly useful in pinpointing areas of the brain where seizures occur. Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. David Fleischer: Treating Esophageal Cancer in Kenya

Posted on January 17th, 2014 by mayoclinic

Dr. Fleischer at Tenwek HospitalEsophageal cancer is a challenging enough condition to treat at the best medical centers in the U.S. When the condition affects scores of people in a developing country in eastern Africa, the challenge is all the more demanding.

David Fleischer, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, and his colleagues, working in collaboration with Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya, were focused on a noble charge: to work with physicians and staff at Tenwek to intervene early when patients exhibit symptoms that could lead to esophageal cancer.

Dr. Fleischer notes that in many patients with esophageal cancer, the disease is so advanced by the time they present to a physician that only palliative care is possible. In many medical centers such as Tenwek, where several new cases of esophageal cancer are seen each week, the standard of care has been to outfit patients with a tube (stent) in the throat to assist with their swallowing. However, “swallowing a tube is not a cure,” he affirms. Read the rest of this entry »

Richard Rubenstein: Overcoming Rectal Cancer

Posted on January 8th, 2014 by mayoclinic

Richard Rubinstein in his photography studioA 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 »

Ginette’s Top Tips for Breast Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them

Posted on January 7th, 2014 by mayoclinic

Ginette Weiner

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 »

My story – Alicia Austerman

Posted on December 20th, 2013 by Alicia Austerman

When I was 18 years old, I noticed a small lump on my right forearm. I went to my primary care physician and was told it was nothing to worry about. Within one month, five more lumps formed on my right arm. My physician scheduled me for a biopsy and due to complications. I ended up in the emergency room the very next night. My arm had turned purple and blue and swelled to twice its size. After the biopsy, I was referred to multiple different physicians, and none of them could figure out what was wrong with my arm.

After three months I was beginning to lose hope of regaining my normal college life, when someone told me about the Mayo Clinic. The next day I called and scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist named Dr. Conroy. I honestly cannot say how glad I am to have met Dr. Conroy. His attitude and personality could make anyone feel better.

After meeting, Dr.Conroy suggested another biopsy, which made me extremely nervous due to my previous experience. He reassured me that everything was going to be okay and that he would take great care of me. Read the rest of this entry »

Finding Coach Rudy

Posted on November 15th, 2013 by mayoclinic

With no cure available, a Mayo patient finds comfort in a reunion with a former teacher whose words and encouragement had a lasting impact on his life. With some help from his Mayo physician.


Ron Kraszneck

Ron Kraszneck reunited with an inspirational figure from his past with the help of his Mayo Clinic physician.

Tim Ruettiger, a gym teacher and wrestling coach in New Lennox, Ill., had no idea what a lasting impression he had made on one of his students, Ron Krasneck.

In 1982, Krasneck was 14 years old when he first met Ruettiger, known as Coach Rudy. Krasneck was slightly built, standing just 4 feet, 6 inches tall. Born with a rare genetic condition linked to cancer, the teenager had undergone multiple orthopedic surgeries to treat bone cancer. But Coach Rudy treated Krasneck just like the rest of the students.

Thirty years later, Mayo's Horacio Asbun, M.D., a surgeon at Mayo Clinic in Florida, learned about Coach Rudy's impact during a conversation back in December 2012, after Krasneck learned that surgery couldn’t cure his advanced gall bladder and liver cancer.

“I couldn’t do anything for him,” says Dr. Asbun, who knew much of Krasneck’s medical journey. Diagnosed as a toddler, his disease ramped up in his late teens. At age 46, Krasneck had survived nine episodes of bone cancer, amputations of a hand and wrist, partial removal of a shoulder/scapula and removal and rebuilding of C2 and C3 vertebrae. He walked with a prosthetic leg, though it was hardly noticeable. He'd had more than 35 major surgeries. Read the rest of this entry »

My story – Carmen

Posted on November 15th, 2013 by Carmen

I was first diagnosed with Melanoma in 2004. Then in 2008 the melanoma started metastasizing quickly. After having 4 different surgeries to remove the tumors, my local doctor strongly suggested that I go to the Mayo Clinic for further treatments. The melanoma had spread to my liver TWICE and the doctors were able to save me both times. I am happy to be living a wonderful life now. Dr. Svetomir Markovic tells me that I am one in 10 million. I happen to think HE is one in 10 million!