Jerry Keithline knows that life can change dramatically in the blink of an eye.
The 42-year old Kansas City resident experienced get-your-attention symptoms in October 2001: increased heart rate, chest pains, coughing and night sweats. True to his positive nature, Jerry thought it might be the side effects of common bronchitis or a bad chest cold.
What he found out turned to be a big bump in the road and not a blip on the radar screen; he was about to embark on an arduous journey that would be no vacation.
Jerry was diagnosed with Stage II non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The tumor in his chest was an 8.5cm x 15cm mass, located directly above his heart. When the stunned Keithline sat down with his medical oncologist, William Stephenson, MD, at Research Medical Center, Jerry was told his cancer was treatable.
“I was 33 at the time and wasn’t supposed to be worried about a major illness,” says Jerry. “Dr. Stephenson gave me three options and asked me what I wanted to do. We essentially decided my treatment plan together. His collaborative approach was unexpected and refreshing.”
Jerry and Dr. Stephenson chose the most aggressive treatment to combat the cancer, a forceful combination of chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation that would take a little more than six months to complete. Along the way, Jerry developed a close and personal relationship with Dr. Stephenson who also encouraged his patient to incorporate his faith into the healing process.
“He said research shows that a holistic approach improves chances for a positive outcome,” says Jerry. “He was very supportive, a kind and gentle man and always wanted my opinion. He never hid anything from me and was always frank about what to expect from a procedure.”
Eight years later Jerry is cancer-free, married to the woman he was dating at the time of his diagnosis and the father of a beautiful 2-year old daughter. He gives full credit for his recovery to the proactive care he received from Dr. Stephenson and his staff, along with a large dose of personal faith.
“Receiving a cancer diagnosis certainly changes your life and perspective,” says Jerry. “This challenge has made me a stronger individual and I tend to focus on the important things.”
And having a medical professional such as Dr. Stephenson to team with during a life-transforming illness was just, as Jerry likes to say, what the doctor ordered.