Lung Cancer

  • Patient Story: Lifelong Philosophy Didn’t Change

Patient-Centered Care at the Genesis Cancer Care Institute

Bill Peel has never been one to dwell on things he can't control.

That lifelong philosophy didn't change when Peel, who operates the restaurants at Walcott's Iowa-80 Truck Stop, learned he had small cell lung cancer. He kept that philosophy as he underwent a series of radiation therapy and low-dose chemotherapy, and now, as he completes a fourth session of high-dose chemotherapy at the Genesis Cancer Care Institute.

"The staff members at Genesis tell me I have one of the best attitudes of any patient they've seen," says Peel of Stockton, Iowa, who has continued to work during his treatment. "I tell them, 'There's nothing I can do about this diagnosis, so I'm in your capable hands.'"

Peel's diagnosis came about in a circuitous way, beginning with a cough that had persisted for a month.

One day at work, he coughed so hard he blacked out and fell on his head. His head injury, and the possible need for brain surgery, landed him at University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City. There, a CAT scan showed a dark mass on his lung. A biopsy confirmed he had small-cell lung cancer.

Close to Home

Bill Peel of Stockton, Iowa,
converses with Genesis Cancer
Care Institute nurse navigator
Wendy Ballou, who has been
guiding him and answering his
questions during his treatment 
for small cell lung cancer.

Faced with the life-changing diagnosis, he decided he wanted to be at Genesis, a familiar place where he always had received his health care.

Since the Genesis Cancer Care Institute was unveiled in 2008, new technology, renovations and an expansion of existing cancer care facilities have made Genesis a national destination for cancer care. It's the many support services for patients and their families, however, that distinguishes the Institute and helps make living with a cancer diagnosis more manageable.

"I'm sure there's a very competent medical team in Iowa City, but I told them I would prefer to have my treatment closer to home at Genesis because it's such a great organization," Peel recalls. "At first, my wife, Beverly, wanted me to go to Iowa City, but when she met the people at the Genesis Cancer Care Institute and saw the great work going on here, she fell in love with the place, too."

Peel, 68, already knew medical oncologist Dr. David Mercer, who had treated him previously for a blood disorder. He liked Dr. Mercer and his colleagues at Iowa Cancer Specialists, P.C. and soon learned the same  compassionate care prevailed throughout the Genesis Cancer Care Institute.

"You get a comfortable feeling at the Genesis Cancer Care Institute. You feel the compassion," Peel says. "It can be pretty daunting when someone says you have cancer. But my experience at Genesis has been that it doesn't have to be that daunting."

Nurse Navigators

Helping guide Peel through the whirlwind of tests, treatments, unfamiliar technology and multiple health care providers that come with a lung cancer diagnosis has been his nurse navigator Wendy Ballou. She is one of three cancer nurse navigators at the Genesis Cancer Care Institute who help guide patients and their families through the cancer journey.

"Wendy has been fantastic and always comes to talk to me, whether I'm here for radiation therapy, chemotherapy or tests," Peel says. "She checks in to see how I'm doing. She's very knowledgeable about cancer. She's great to have nearby when I have a question, but I'm not scheduled to see Dr. Mercer. She has been a great conduit for us to receive accurate information and really understand what my treatment is all about."

The cancer nurse navigator program is one of several support services for patients and their families, including nutrition, physical rehabilitation, spiritual care, a survivor services program, an on-site Gilda's Club office, support groups, and Camp Genesis for youngsters affected by cancer in the family.

Peel utilized oncology rehabilitation to help him with weakness in his legs.

He underwent radiation therapy with Varian Trilogy with Brain Lab ExacTrac Robotics. In 2009, Genesis became one of very few hospitals in the nation to offer the versatile, image-guided radiation therapy system.

After his series of radiation and low-dose chemotherapy treatments ended, a CAT scan showed the mass of cancer in Peel's lung had disappeared.

"Small cell has a tendency to run and hide elsewhere in your body when it gets attacked, so they're chasing it down wherever else it's at with several sessions of high-dose chemotherapy," Peel says. "So far, I've tolerated the chemotherapy well, with no hair loss or nausea."

He has been under siege before; more than four decades ago, he served in Vietnam.

"In Vietnam, I remember sitting in a base camp mess hall one night, with live arms going off around us," he recalls. "An older sergeant asked us, 'What are you boys ducking from?" We answered, 'The small arms fire.' He said, "That's the point: It's small arms fire. It can't reach this far into camp.'

"This sergeant had been to Korea and done two tours in Vietnam and he told us: 'You never hear the round that gets you. As long as you can still hear them, you're good to go.'

Peel concludes: "That advice has stuck with me for 46 years...I just don't worry about things I can't control."

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