Lessons from a health crisis

At age 31, Lonnie Gardner thought he was in the best shape of his life. But within months he would be fighting two types of cancer and recovering from major surgery.

Why you need to be accountable for your health

At age 31, Lonnie Gardner thought he was in the best shape of his life. But within months he would be fighting two types of cancer and recovering from major surgery. Chances are his story couldn’t happen to you, but you can learn from it. It’s about being accountable for your health.


If something doesn’t seem right, get it checked.

For months, Lonnie ignored a seemingly harmless lump on his arm, though his wife, Megan, urged him to have it checked. Tired of worrying, Megan made an appointment for Lonnie to see a dermatologist, who removed the lump, which tested positive for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.


Do your research.

Realizing this was serious, Lonnie researched local oncologists who specialized in the type of lymphoma, or blood cancer, with which he’d been diagnosed.

“I have two kids, a family and a whole life ahead of me,” Lonnie said. “I realized though the oncologist I was referred to was probably very good, I wanted the best to kick this thing and get on with life.”

They settled on a Norton Cancer Institute physician, who sent Lonnie for additional testing to ensure the cancer hadn’t spread.

“The tests showed a few areas of concern in my gastrointestinal tract, so I was referred to a gastroenterologist for an endoscopy,” Lonnie said. . “In the meantime, plans were made for radiation for the lymphoma.”

Because Lonnie chose a Norton gastroenterologist and radiologist, he was connected to the entire Norton medical system through an electronic network called MyChart. He could access test results, make appointments and communicate with his growing list of doctors.


Speak up.

During an appointment, Lonnie asked the gastroenterologist about a spot on his colon that he had seen noted in his MyChart records. A colonoscopy was ordered and a large pre-cancerous polyp was discovered.

“I’ll never forget the doctor telling me that if I had waited until the usual age to get a colonoscopy (45), the polyp would have become advanced-stage colon cancer and probably would have been a death sentence,” Lonnie said.

“Doctors are here to be your partner in your health. When you speak up, it’s not seen as questioning authority or judgment. We encourage you to be involved in your own care and share in the decisionmaking,” said David J. Overley, M.D., internal medicine physician who is passionate about ensuring patients keep lines of communication open with their physicians.


Educate yourself.

After doctors had removed the section of colon that contained the polyp and his radiation treatments were complete, Lonnie recalled a doctor mentioning genetic testing.

“They had said colon cancer may run in my family and it would be a good idea to check if I’m a carrier of a genetic abnormality that I could pass on to my kids,” he said. “It was our job to follow through and actually seek out that testing.”

“Each patient has his own set of desires and goals for his health,” Dr. Overley said. “The physician is here to guide the patient in making informed choices in order to achieve those goals. After that, it is up to the patient to follow through on accomplishing the goals. That isnwhat being accountable is all about.”

“At the end of the day, your health is just like any other job you do,” Lonnie said. “You have to stay on top of it and work hard at it.”’

Access your health everywhere

Norton Healthcare makes it easy to be in charge of your health and wellness through MyChart. MyChart allows you to stay up to date on lab and test results, send messages to your Norton physician or provider, access health resources and more. Learn more at NortonHealthcare.com/MyChart.


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