Myron Guthrie - Cancer Survivor

If in Doubt, Check it Out

Myron Guthrie, from Indianola, has sage advice to pass on about his medical care: Address suspicious growths and find a doctor you can trust who is honest and direct.

The 65-year-old’s story starts with a mole growing on his temple that he asked his family doctor about. “There were no symptoms,” he said. “It wasn’t that it looked funny.” His doctor took a biopsy and sent it in. Three weeks later he learned it was melanoma. A surgeon in Omaha removed an even larger patch and grafted skin from his leg. Two months later, a PET scan showed the melanoma cancer was “trying to get in the lymph nodes.” Surgery to remove 30-40 lymph nodes behind his ear followed. That surgery also removed nerve endings that affected his facial muscles for a while, he said, adding that he had only half a smile and a blink-less left eye for a few months. With the surgeries complete, Myron thought “it’s removed and we’re done.”

Myron moved on to the next stage in treatment: immunotherapy. This type of treatment stimulates the natural defenses of a person’s immune system so it works harder to find and attack cancer cells. Every other week for a year, he received an infusion treatment at Community Hospital’s Infusion Department.

Finally, with the conclusion of immunotherapy, radiation was recommended by Myron’s surgeon. To be honest, he wondered if radiation was really necessary. Myron had heard about the side effects, so he posed a question to his radiation oncologist, Dr. Todd Hlavaty, from Community Hospital’s Anderson Center for Radiation Oncology. “What happens if I don’t take radiation?”

This is the part where it’s important to have a doctor who is honest and direct. Myron heard him say, “Melanoma is the worst. It attacks and spreads to organs. You have an aggressive melanoma. If it gets into your lymph system, you’ve got six months, and then it’s lights out.”

That message was a wake-up call for Myron. “Why didn’t someone tell me this before,” he wondered. He added that he needed to hear that message. “I respect the man and he was just being honest.”

The radiation staff at the Anderson Center, Dr. Hlavaty, and physician assistant, Amber Reynolds-Lorentz, explained how radiation has progressed. They also thoroughly explained the symptoms Myron could experience. Their education reduced his fears and he made the decision to receive six weeks of treatment. His symptoms weren’t as bad as he first thought: a sore throat, burns sensitive to the touch, but no blisters and itching all over.

Myron had great support close to home during his cancer treatments. His infusions were available at Community Hospital in the Infusion Department. He received radiation in McCook at Community Hospital’s Anderson Center for Radiation Oncology. His oncologist was Dr. Pasam from North Platte’s Callahan Cancer Center – who also sees patients at Community Hospital’s Medical Specialists Center. The cancer services program also offered patient navigation of which Myron was appreciative but didn’t need.

Today, his latest PET scan shows he is cancer-free. He is following up with more immunotherapy to keep the cancer from returning. His message to doctors out there. “Be honest and direct.” To patients, he encourages them to ask questions. “That’s where I got the truth.”