• Cancer Patient Stories

    Michigan heart patient counting blessings

This story was submitted by Ron Reffitt Jr.

Ron Reffitt Jr and his family in Michigan
Photograph by Melinda Ann Photography of Williamsburg, Mich

In this photo, I'm holding my first grandson, Blake, born this summer to my daughter, Jennifer, behind me, and her husband, Brandon. My sons, Cody and Ron, are on the other side of me. The smile on my face says it all -- how happy and grateful I am to be alive and with my family.

In January 2009, I was diagnosed with a very rare cancerous tumor in my heart and was told prognosis was not good, and I only had six to eighteen months to live. Luckily my local cardiologist made several phone calls, and I was fortunate enough to end up at Mayo Clinic where they performed surgery and removed the majority of the tumor.

It's been a long year filled with chemotherapy and radiation and numerous trips back to Mayo for follow-up testing and evaluations with my doctors to keep things in check. So far so good, and there is no evidence of any tumors growing -- which is a wonderful feeling to have, especially this time of year.

I live in a small town in Northern Lower Michigan so everybody knows everybody. These days, every once in a while I get the "you're supposed to be dead" kind of look. I smile at them when they realize it really is me.

I have a ton to be thankful for this year; just sitting at the table for Thanksgiving held new meaning. For me, the worst part of the last year was hearing and seeing how much it bothered my parents and the rest of my family to hear that I may not be around much longer. Once what you have been told about your illness really starts to sink in and you understand what you are up against, watching how worried and upset your family feels while there is nothing you can do about it is probably the worst feeling and part of the entire process. A person actually is then dealing with how they feel as well as trying to understand how others feel at the same time. Thankfully we are past that now.

A word about Mayo: No one person can know everything there is to know about everything -- that is where a team effort comes into play and what the Mayo people are so good at. No ego, just quality patient care and people who genuinely care about the patient. It's not, 'Hello, I'm doctor so and so. It's Hello, My name is ---------and I am a ----------.' They bring themselves to a person's level when they speak and in the way they introduce themselves -- and also in the way they present themselves. It's not, 'No we cannot help.' Instead it's, 'This is what we are going to do and how we think we can help.'

To read Ron's first post, click here.

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