Hope – and Lots of Help – Shine Light in Cancer Survivor’s Journey
Just a year after Tim Neuroth sat in the Avera Cancer Institute and heard the “c-word”, the 63-year-old Sioux Falls native went out and golfed 18 holes, on foot, walking from shot to shot.
“Dec. 10, 2019, was my diagnosis: soft palate, tonsil and lymph node cancer. Dec. 11, 2020, God blessed me with a warm, beautiful day outside, and I appreciated every second of it,” Neuroth said. “I realize how lucky I am – and how much I credit the people who helped me when it was overwhelming.”
There were times when Neuroth remembers feeling uncertain if he’d ever feel better – or even survive. In those times, the support of Avera cancer professionals really came to mean what they do today.
“It’s an amazing group of people who truly exude a profound faith,” he said. “You can really tell they care – every one of them. I don’t know what I would have done without them, or without the love of my wife, Dianne, and my sons, Colin and Justin. They were amazing throughout my journey.”
Survivors of cancer like Neuroth come to a realization once treatment ends: the “old” person they were, and this new one who lives on, are not the same. No two cancers, cancer patients or survivors are the same.
Support Beyond Kindness and Compassion
There are many challenges that survivors face after treatment. Strong faith and positivity help, but clinical programs also support them.
“We really focus on long-term follow up in our clinic,” said Theresa Mehrman, CNP, an Avera Cancer Institute hematology and oncology provider. “We screen for recurrence and make sure all patients have a bridge between their cancer care and a return to their primary care providers.”
Since cancer patients focus on treatment and stopping the condition that threatens them, other health concerns might fade from focus for a time. Mehrman and her team make sure all cancer survivors are up-to-date on other screenings, necessary immunizations and whatever other steps can help them thrive and remain healthy.
“Each survivor’s situation is different, but we can help them manage things and guide them toward general good health, which can help reduce recurrence and risk,” Mehrman said. “We also provide education and other resources that contribute to success.”
The Avera Cancer Institute’s Navigation Center is one of the most-often-used resources, because it can help survivors connect with assets and tools that will aid their efforts. “Support groups can really help survivors realize they are not alone and have shown to help survivors adjust to life after treatment,” said Mehrman.
Neuroth said he longs for the chances to return to thank his care team, to support survivors who are on paths like his and to truly celebrate the “angels among us” he credits with his life.
From Patient to Survivor
The trail of treatment Neuroth took included dark, frightening times. It also had stops where the trip was like a miracle. Neuroth was no stranger to cancer – several members of his family also experienced their own diagnosis. Yet facing his own – it was still terrifying.
“But the first day I went to the Prairie Center, for treatment and care, I truly felt like a huge boulder came off my back. Every person seemed to show me how much they cared, and it helped me stay optimistic.”
One time, during a chemotherapy infusion treatment, an Avera chaplain stopped in to visit him. As she left, she gave him a gift he still treasures.
“She said she was there to inspire me, but that my attitude had inspired her instead, and I still see that as one of the best things that I have ever heard,” he said. “That’s why I try to live the mantra of being kinder than necessary. You don’t know what battles the people you might meet are fighting.”
Shortly after his treatment concluded, Neuroth received an invitation to join Avera’s patient advisory council. “I said yes, immediately – I wanted to do whatever I could to give back, and to try to help others,” he said. “I look forward to the time when we can gather all the survivors in person, so I can join them, and hope others will come out, too. There’s strength in numbers.”
Learn more about Avera’s cancer services for patients and survivors.