Patient Stories - April 21, 2017

My Passion for Model Building Keeps Me Going While Dealing with Cancer

By Greg Kelly
Minneapolis, MN
My Passion for Model Building Keeps Me Going While Dealing with Cancer

In early November 2016 I was sitting in the lobby at Minnesota Oncology getting ready for my every-3- week chemotherapy for prostate cancer. I started reading CONQUER magazine and loved the inspirational, uplifting stories for patients with cancer.

A week earlier I went to the Mayo Clinic at Rochester and had a conference with a well-known urologist, Eugene Kwon, MD, who told me, “You should be very happy,” saying that my condition is now “in remission.”

It was not always this way. I had resisted treatment for a problem with my prostate 6 years ago, with elevated PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels. I just couldn’t believe this was happening.

A Marriage and a Cancer Diagnosis

In October 2015, I retired from running my hobby shop for 43 years in southern California. I married my high school sweetheart, Dana, a Minnesota native, and moved to Minnesota to be with my guardian angel.

Then in early January 2016, everything started to go wrong. I had to get up 15 times at night to go to the bathroom. If Dana merely touched my shoulders or hips, they would ache badly. Dana took my temperature, which was 102.7, so she took me to a nearby clinic. I saw her primary care doctor, who ordered a PSA test, which showed very high PSA levels, and rising, indicating a problem with my prostate.

Then I saw a local urologist, Steve Moore, MD. He immediately prescribed Flomax (tamsulosin HCl), which is used for men with a condition called benign prostate hyperplasia, or BPH, and the drug worked great. However, I still had pain in my shoulders, so Dr. Moore recommended I get a Lupron (leuprolide acetate) injection, which is used to relieve symptoms of prostate cancer. That, too, worked well for about 6 months, and my PSA levels plummeted to 190 ng/mL very fast, but still high. So Dr. Moore recommended that I see an oncologist at Minnesota Oncology.

John Wangness, MD, at Minnesota Oncology, recommended I start chemotherapy with Taxotere (docetaxel). Being a “doubting Thomas,” I said I would think about that. On a return visit to Dr. Moore, he also recommended Taxotere, because my PSA level was too high.

Again, I told him I would think about it. Dana had read about Dr. Kwon at the Mayo Clinic, and we decided to go there. I had a full MRI done there, and the following week Dr. Kwon recommended that I start Taxotere chemotherapy, for prostate cancer, at Minnesota Oncology.

So finally I agreed, and started chemo. Yes, I lost all my hair, but not my spirit and my will to live.

A Passion for Model Building

I came from a family of 12 brothers and sisters. There was no history of prostate cancer in my family, neither in my dad or in my 4 brothers.My Passion for Model Building Keeps Me Going While Dealing with Cancer | CONQUER Magazine

I love building scale models, and keep at it. When I left southern California, I donated most of my works to museums, libraries, and schools, including a 1930s schoolhouse, model rockets X-15, and U.S. Navy blimp Hangar.

Dana insisted I bring the Titanic Grand Staircase model, and a 1950s movie house (where the movie “Singin’ in the Rain” was always playing) with us to Minnesota. 

When people viewed my work, they would remark how patient I am. I would tell them I have no patience, but rather this is a therapy to calm me down. Now that I have a full basement in Minneapolis, I have resumed my model-building passion.

If you check Swede Hollow Café’s Facebook page, you will see the Scandinavian-style Swede Hollow Café model I built and donated to them. It is now on display in their cafe. I am now building a model of the classic A&W Root Beer stand. 


The Fight Continues

I am not out of the woods by any means, and still dealing with prostate cancer. But my hair is coming back, and I even started shaving it. I now follow what my doctors tell me to do.

At a recent visit to the Mayo Clinic, my doctor prescribed Zytiga (abiraterone acetate), which is used for men with metastatic prostate cancer (cancer that has spread), and I will have to continually get checked and continue with the medications. But I keep my spirits up.

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