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Local cancer survivors celebrate life

Source: Dayton Daily News

Author: Beth Anspach

Published: July 16, 2014

Cancer Treatment Centers of America builds hope. Treatments from Illinois center help each outlive initial prognosis.

Karl G. Voelkel of Lebanon and Nicole Carson of Middletown are celebrating life after each receiving potentially devastating cancer diagnoses five years ago.

Voelkel said he’d been seeing his urologist over several years and having biopsies from “time to time,” when in November of 2008 he was told he had prostate cancer. “The doctor said he would set up meetings with different doctors and I could talk with specialists about surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy,” Voelkel said. “My wife, Jean and I have two very close friends, Gary and Diana Mummert, and Gary was seen at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) for a second opinion after being first treated in Cincinnati for multiple myeloma.”

Because their friend ended up being treated at CTCA after receiving a poor prognosis and today is alive and doing well, the Voelkels opted to travel to Zion, Ill., to CTCA for a second opinion of their own.

“In February of 2009 they ran a series of tests and said with certainty that they could treat me,” Voelkel said. “They recommended radiation and hormone therapy and started hormone therapy shortly thereafter.” He ultimately received 42 treatments of two different types of radiation, all completed in August of 2009.

Voelkel completed his last checkup at CTCA on June 5, and “they said everything is still good,” he said.

Voelkel said he initially went to CTCA for a second opinion and was also looking for an option where his treatment and care could be delivered in one location. “In addition to the very expert clinical care I received at CTCA, the warmth and love shown to my wife and to me exceeded anything we’d previously experienced.”

Carson said she felt the same after being diagnosed with stage four rectal cancer in June of 2009. “I went to the emergency room because I had severe pain in my side,” she said. “They found nine spots of cancer on my liver, ran tests and found it was cancer that had spread.” Carson was just 44 years old at the time and the mother of five daughters. She was given a grim prognosis and told that without treatment she could expect to live sixnine months and with treatment, possibly 18.

“I took two chemotherapy treatments here in Middletown, and they didn’t go well,” Carson said. “I had very bad side effects.” Those included severe mouth sores that prevented her from drinking and eating.

Carson sought her second opinion from CTCA and said the experience there felt “totally different” than what she had at home. “They never said there was no cure, and I felt they were very devoted to me and my care,” she said. “At home I just felt like there was nothing they could do.”

And though Carson received the same chemotherapy drugs at CTCA she did while in Ohio, she had none of the side effects, thanks to some treatments the center used to help counteract them, such as mouth rinses. “I had to have a hefty dose of chemo for five days out of every month,” she said. “And they gave me medications to help keep me from getting sick.”

Carson said the big difference was she always felt like her doctors at CTCA were doing everything to help keep her from dying. “If I asked about my prognosis, they would tell me to look at the bottom of my foot to see if I saw an expiration date,” she said. “No one can tell you when you are going to die. All they can do is fight and give it everything we have to save your life.”

Carson’s final chemo treatment was in June of 2011 and she was told she was cancer free. Today she returns once every six months for a checkup and so far remains free of cancer.

Both Voelkel and Carson returned to CTCA in Zion on June 5-6 for their annual “Celebrate Life” event, designed for all five year cancer survivors treated at the center. The event marked the 26th year that a tree has been planted in honor of each survivor. More than 300 trees were planted this year in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation and each survivor was also honored with an engraved gold leaf, displayed on the ever growing “tree of life” located at the center.

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