This is an “open letter” expressing my deep gratitude to Jon Huntsman, Sr., the Utah billionaire, who founded the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, and has contributed almost a billion dollars to the Institute.
He and the top-notch staff he assembled have enabled me to manage the rare and always fatal form of neuroendocrine cancer I was diagnosed with in November of 2005. It was already Stage IV. There was a large tumor mass over the stomach wrapped in and around the artery and blood vessels going to my intestines. There were numerous tumors on my liver and most were already large. The cancer had also attacked my heart’s tricuspid valve which in turn was deteriorating. I’d lost 80 pounds almost ovrnight.
When doctors cannot find the generating tumor in 80% of the cases that patient is dead within six months. Mine was a case where the generator could not be detected. Thus, I was given the proverbial six months and told to put my affairs in order, which I did.
My wife and I did what most couples do after receiving such news: we cried, we prayed, we talked about bucket lists, and we did our homework. We ferreted out who the best doctor was for treating this rare form of cancer. We also found which cancer treatment hospital was the best in the world for treating it. Supposedly it was M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas.
The best doctor was affiliated with Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. This was serendipitous because it gave us an excuse to drop in on an old friend of mine, Jay Shelledy. He was teaching and advising in the Journalism School at LSU.
While visiting with Shelledy we also heard back from M.D. Anderson. We’d sent my complete file to them---the MRI’s, the CT’s, the blood work, x-rays, colonoscopies---the works. The doctors at M.D. Anderson examined it all and sent word back that they were not going to see me, there was nothing they could do.
I was stunned. I’d never heard of one being refused an appointment to obtain a second opinion. The Lord works in mysterious ways, however, because it gave Shelledy the opportunity to pitch the relatively brand new Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City adjacent to the University of Utah Hospital. (more…)