The namesake of the bicycle ride is Jon Colbert, an Akron-area native who moved to Fort Wayne after a job relocation. Jon has stage 4 prostate cancer. The disease was first diagnosed in 2008 when he was 49. Jon has subsequently undergone hormone treatment, chemotherapy, and radiation at the Lutheran Cancer Center under the direction of Dr. Matthew Carr from Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology.
Since learning that he has prostate cancer, Jon has become a dedicated volunteer advocate and leader in northeast Indiana for LIVESTRONG, the organization founded by cycling great Lance Armstrong. LIVESTRONG provides a wealth of free resources to people affected by cancer and others seeking advice with other health-related issues. “LIVESTRONG is a terrific organization,” Jon says.
Jon’s message is clear: “Just get out there and get tested for prostate cancer,” he says. “There are so many efforts aimed at prompting women to have tests for various types of cancer, but men tend to brush it off—they don’t get the necessary checkups they need. At the same time, one of every six men will develop prostate cancer.”
It can happen to anyone, no matter the lifestyle. Jon, for instance, did all the right things. He ate healthy, exercised, and was an avid cyclist, routinely going on rides of 50 to 60 miles. He still rides, on his new Terra Trike, up to 30 miles on days when he’s feeling up to it. It’s all part of the LIVESTRONG philosophy that calls for staying physically fit and positive.
Jon was looking forward to riding the last two days of LIV STRG FOR JON until he had to check into the hospital to have his pain medication adjusted. He was released, and within 24 hours, he joined the rest of the group for the final 14 miles of the ride.
“I think Jon willed himself to be out of the hospital so he could ride,” says his sister-in-law Lori Colbert. Jon’s brother Terry and Lori organized LIV STRG FOR JON. “The bike ride was really a big joint effort—a lot of people made it happen, Lori says. “Jon is such a huge inspiration to everyone he meets. He’s remained positive throughout his battle with this disease, and we wanted to help him get the message out that early detection is the key to effective treatment.”
Six cyclists rode all the way from Akron to Fort Wayne, with others joining the tour along the way. By trek’s end, there were 34 cyclists, including Jon’s wife, Rhonda. Other family members riding included Jon and Rhonda’s son Nate; daughter-in-law Lauren; and granddaughter Ila Rose. Their son Joshua was unable to attend, but he and a friend designed the pamphlets circulated before the LIV STRG FOR JON ride.
Dan Konow, FWMOH chief operating officer, rode the last two legs—more than 100 miles—from Findlay to Van Wert, Ohio, and then from Van Wert to Fort Wayne. “We had a blast,” Dan says. “We had a great group of people riding for a great cause.”
The money raised through sponsors will go to LIVESTRONG.
“I want to thank my family, friends, and everyone else who’s provided me with encouragement during my fight with cancer,” Jon says.]]>
Dr. Ryan Gonzales has joined our highly skilled team of oncologists. He most recently served on the staff at the Coleman Cancer Center in Terre Haute.
Ryan earned a premed bachelor’s degree at Butler University before completing work toward a degree in medicine and surgery at the University of Santo Tomas, Philippines. He subsequently served a residency in internal medicine at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, and later completed a fellowship in oncology and hematology at Feist-Weiller Cancer Center in Shreveport.
Ryan was born in the Philippines, but grew up in Terre Haute, where his father, Dr. Ruben Gonzales, is in private practice.
“I was attracted to Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology because the practice has first-rate facilities and provides patients with leading-edge treatments as they become available,” Ryan says. “The staff is also very nice, and I think I have a real rapport with what is a very talented group of physicians.”
Ryan and his wife, Clara, have two daughters, Mercedes and Clarissa, and a son, Ryan Jr.
“We’re very pleased that Dr. Gonzales has chosen to join us,” says Dan Konow, chief operating officer for Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology. “As with all our dedicated oncologists, Ryan brings a unique background and perspective to our practice, adding to what is already a powerful synergy.”]]>
Provenge has been proven to be a very successful treatment for certain men with advanced prostate cancer. Provenge is a biological treatment that actually uses a patient’s own immune system to fight the cancer.
Charles, now retired after 40 years as a heavy-equipment operator for Golden Rule Sewer & Sanitation in Fort Wayne, first learned he had prostate cancer in October 2007, and he began undergoing traditional radiation treatment and hormone therapy.
Charles responded well to treatment, but over time, his PSA (prostate-specific antigen) level began to rise again. While it’s normal for men to have a low level of PSA in their blood, elevated levels can indicate the existence of various benign conditions or, as in Charles’ case, prostate cancer.
“We needed to find a way to lower his PSA level,” says Charles’ wife, Emma. “We were encouraged when Charles’ oncologist at Fort Wayne Oncology told us about this new treatment, Provenge.”
Provenge is cellular immunotherapy designed to stimulate a patient’s immune system to identify and target prostate cancer cells. Each dose is manufactured specifically for each patient using his immune cells. During treatment with Provenge, a patient’s white blood cells are collected, activated to seek and attack prostate cancer cells, and reintroduced into the patient’s bloodstream.
Charles’ treatment with Provenge, being administered here under the direction of Dr. Farrukh Adhami, began on May 21, when white blood cells were collected and sent to a facility in New Jersey for activation. The cells were reintroduced into Charles’ bloodstream during subsequent visits to FWMOH.
“Charles is feeling pretty good,” Emma says. “And he hasn’t experienced any side effects from the treatment. We’re very optimistic about this new treatment.”
According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer ranks second to skin cancer as the most common cancer in American men. It’s estimated that more than 240,000 new cases will be diagnosed and that more than 28,000 men will die from prostate cancer in 2012. About one man in every six will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, and about one in 36 will die of the disease.
“Provenge is a groundbreaking treatment that has extended the lives of men with advanced prostate cancer,” says Dan Konow, chief operating officer for Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology. “We consistently strive to provide our patients with new avenues of treatment as they become available.”]]>
Jon’s mission is to make all men aware of this dreaded disease and to realize the importance of getting their PSA (prostate specific antigen) tested yearly. One out of six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Although this type of cancer can be treated successfully, it can easily be overlooked.
All cyclists are welcome for as much or as little as they wish to do. We just require that all participants register. The fee is $25 and includes a T-shirt and water for the last day. (We want all our cyclists recognized as part of our group!) All participants must register by June 30, the T-shirt cut-off date. Each cyclist is responsible for enlisting his or her own sponsors—that’s how we’ll make money for our cause.
Checks need to be made payable to:
LIV STRG FOR JON
Click here for more information for I Ride For Jon Colbert]]>
On April 12, Joel was here for routine testing that indicated he was faring well. He’s scheduled to return for a positron emission tomography (PET) scan and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan on May 16.
It was PET and MRI scans that first showed Joel’s cancer was in complete remission last August, just four months after he started treatment with Yervoy at FWMOH. Additional scans in December of last year indicated the cancer was still in remission.
“That was quite a Christmas gift for us,” says Joel’s wife, Kimberly. “Joel is feeling good. He’s even able to work in the yard, although he tires easily.”
Joel’s cancer, which began as a pea-sized growth near the right-side junction of his neck and shoulder, was first diagnosed as stage 2 in 2009. The growth was removed, but Joel’s cancer manifested itself in other areas.
Joel was eventually referred to FWMOH, where his oncologist has been Dr. Matthew Carr. In February 2010, it was determined that Joel’s cancer had advanced to stage 4, terminal. Then began what have become regular visits to the world-famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where Joel has undergone additional surgeries and treatment.
Here at FWMOH last April, Joel was perhaps the first person in Indiana, and one of just a few in the whole country, to undergo treatment with Yervoy, shortly after it was approved by the Federal Drug Administration.
Yervoy is the first treatment developed specifically to treat patients with stage 4 melanoma. Patients who received treatment with Yervoy had been twice as likely to survive during both the first and second year after treatment.
Joel received four intravenous doses of Yervoy over the course of 12 weeks. While it can take up to six months for the full benefits of Yervoy to manifest, Joel experience marked improvement after just one dose.
“We’re delighted that Joel has responded so well to Yervoy,” says Dan Konow, chief operating officer for Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology. “Outcomes such as this are the reason we remain dedicated to offering our patients the latest in treatment options.”
Click here to view the Indiana’s NewsCenter story]]>
Provenge is a biological treatment that actually uses a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. Provenge has been proven to be a very successful treatment for certain men with advanced prostate cancer. It’s been proven to extend their lives.
“We’re very pleased to continue to be on the leading edge of cancer treatment with this radical new approach to treating prostate cancer,” says Dan Konow, chief operating officer for Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology.
Recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Provenge is neither a chemotherapy drug nor a form of hormone therapy to reduce testosterone level. Rather, Provenge is cellular immunotherapy designed to stimulate a patient’s immune system to identify and target prostate cancer cells. Each dose is manufactured specifically for each patient using his immune cells.
During treatment with Provenge, a patient’s white blood cells are collected, activated to seek and attack prostate cancer cells, and reintroduced into the patient’s bloodstream. Typical treatment with Provenge is completed within a month. The most common side effects are mostly mild or moderate and include chills, fatigue, fever, back pain, nausea, joint ache, and headache.
According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer ranks second to skin cancer as the most common cancer in American men. It’s estimated that more than 240,000 new cases will be diagnosed and that more than 28,000 men will die from prostate cancer in 2012. About one man in every six will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, and about one in 36 will die of the disease. Prostate cancer occurs mainly in older men, but the survival rate is high with proper treatment.
“With any cancer, it’s important to investigate every possible treatment option, and Provenge is a viable alternative treatment for men with advanced prostate cancer,” Konow says. “At the same time, Provenge is just one example of the groundbreaking treatment options we offer all our patients at Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology.”]]>
Like so many people who discover they have cancer, Joel Saunders didn’t see it coming. Nor did he have a reason to be looking.
Joel, 46, rarely even missed a day of work, no mean feat considering he was holding down two jobs so that his wife, Kimberly, could be a stay-at-home mom for their daughter Jadyn, now 10 years old.
“Joel has always been so big, strong, and muscular—always so healthy,” Kimberly says. “He’d usually go a year or two between sick days. That’s why we were so shocked by all of this.”
It began as a pea-sized growth near the right-side junction of Joel’s neck and shoulder. He first noticed it in February 2009. The first doctor to examine the growth said it might be a swollen gland and wrote a prescription. Over the next five months, however, the abnormality grew—and grew.
In August 2009, the growth was removed. Two days later, after a biopsy was completed, Joel was told that the growth was melanoma. Joel was told his cancer was in stage 2.
Two weeks later, Joel underwent surgery to remove a host of lymph nodes to see if his cancer had metastasized, or advanced to other parts of his body. “My cancer, a very aggressive cancer—is a rare instance in which the melanoma formed inside my body,” Joel explains. “There was never a ‘source’ on my skin.”
However, Joel had spent seven years working in various capacities for a swimming pool company in Florida, where he and Kimberly met some 18 years ago. Overexposure to sunlight is the leading cause of skin cancer.
“He was always outside when he worked for that pool company,” Kimberly says. “We think that constant expose to the sun contributed to his cancer.”
Joel was then referred to Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology (FWMOH), where his primary physician has been Dr. Matthew Carr. Joel first underwent treatments with interferon, a drug that boosts the immune system and fights tumors.
Still, the cancer was relentless. By February 2010, it was determined that Joel had three brain tumors, and he underwent full-brain radiation therapy in an attempt to destroy or shrink the tumors. It was also determined that Joel’s cancer had advanced to stage 4, terminal.
Soon after began what would become regular visits to the world-famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where surgeons removed Joel’s brain tumors. The first surgery was performed on Good Friday in 2010. Joel also underwent gamma-knife radiation treatments at Mayo.
“Dr. Carr was fantastic during my time at the Mayor Clinic,” Joel recalls. “He worked very closely with the doctors there, exchanging information about my condition and progress. We really appreciated that.”
Joel healed well after those surgeries, and with the addition of oral chemotherapy to his treatment at FWMOH, his condition seemed to be static. However, a fourth brain tumor was later diagnosed, and cancer was also discovered in as many as 25 places in Joel’s body.
This spring, Yervoy, a new drug, gained approval from the Federal Drug Administration. Developed by Bristol-Myers-Squibb, Yervoy prolonged the lives of people with late-stage melanoma during clinical trials.
“Yervoy is the first treatment developed specifically to treat patients with stage 4 melanoma,” Carr says. “Patients who’ve received this treatment have been twice as likely to survive during both the first and second year after treatment. That’s very exciting news.
“The body often lags in recognizing and attacking cancer cells,” Carr continues. “Yervoy, a man-made antibody, releases the emergency brake on that part of the immune system that lags behind. Then, the immune system gears up and finds and destroys melanoma cancer cells.”
Given the opportunity to try Yervoy, Joel didn’t hesitate. “We’re very thankful for the possibilities this drug presents,” Joel says. “I never gave trying it a second thought. It’s a real blessing.”
Joel is receiving a total of four doses of Yervoy at FWMOH over the course of 12 weeks. He underwent his second treatment—taken intravenously—on May 19.
“Joel may be the first person in Indiana to receive Yervoy, and one of just a few so far in the whole country,” Kimberly says. “We know his cancer can’t be cured, but it’s treatable, and Yervoy could add months to his life. And for people whose cancer is discovered early, Yervoy could add years to their lives. This is very exciting.”
While it can take up to six months for the full benefits of Yervoy to manifest, Joel has already seen positive results. After just one treatment, two protrusions on his neck all but disappeared.
As with many treatments to fight cancer, there is a potential for adverse side effects. So far, Joel has experienced a moderate version of those effects, including stomach pain and body rashes.
Throughout his ordeal, Joel and Kimberly have relied on family, friends, and their abiding love for each other to maintain a positive attitude. “We have a terrific support system, and Joel and I are very close,” Kimberly says. “We’re still as much in love as when we got married.
“So many things have happened over the last two years,” Kimberly continues. “We’ve been blessed so much, over and over. We continue to focus on the positive, not the negative. We think that’s a good example to set for our daughter, so when she faces difficulties in life, she’ll remember how brave her father has been.”
Faith plays a big role in fostering that positive attitude. Joel earned a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies at Cincinnati Christian University, and, following in his father’s footsteps, he once served as a minister.
Kimberly says they also have great faith in the staff at FWMOH. “They’re such good people—we feel that we’ve actually made friends at Fort Wayne Oncology. Everyone—from the receptionist when we first walked in the door—to the nurses, to the doctors, especially Dr. Carr, of course—has treated us with nothing but respect and kindness. They treat us as though Joel is the only patient they have.”
For now, Joel and Kimberly are just waiting to see what tomorrow may bring. “All we can do is have faith in God and trust in our doctors,” Joel says. “We’re just taking everything one day at a time.”]]>
Indiana’s NewsCenter has updated its story about how Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology is using a very recently approved new drug to treat and give new hope to cancer patient Joel Saunders.
To read the updated story and view the related video, go to: