Real Patients, Real Stories

Huntsman Cancer Institute Team Helps Get Swimmer Back in the Water



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On Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 Goody Tyler IV stood at water’s edge of the Salt Lake Marina, stripped down to a Speedo, cap and goggles, waded into the 41-degree water, and started swimming.

After two quarter-mile laps to the mouth of the marina and back, his body shifted to survival mode, pulling blood from the limbs to keep his core warm. After the third lap, the searing pain and growing inability to convince his body to keep going were almost too much to bear.

During his fourth and final lap, his body started shutting down and willpower was the only thing lifting his arms and kicking his legs the rest of the way back. His swim in the frigid water lasted 40 minutes and it took another hour to get his body temperature out of the danger zone. When all was said and done, Tyler was only the eighth American to complete the harrowing “Ice Mile.”

Four days later, Tyler started his first round of chemotherapy for testicular cancer.

“When I was diagnosed last November, I knew that day was my last chance to do it,” Tyler said. “When I finished with therapy I knew the water would be well into the 40s and 50s, and I’d have to wait until next December for another chance. I was thinking, ‘If I can just do a half-mile today I’ll be good,’ but something inside of me just snapped and I went for it.”

Tyler completed his treatment in December, and the 36-year-old Virginia native, husband, father of two girls and military veteran says while it was difficult balancing treatment along with his family and teaching career, having the team at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute, led by Urologist Miranda J. Hardee M.D., made all the difference in the world.

“She was instrumental throughout my treatment,” he said. “She was my advocate in getting me to Huntsman and all the unbelievable staff here. I can’t thank her enough.”

“He’s such a neat guy,” Hardee said. “The whole time he was extremely trusting that everyone was going to do the right thing when it came to his treatment. He really wanted to do everything it took to get better, and hopefully we’ve done that.”

Tyler, an avid marathon and cold-water swimmer, completed two rounds of chemo before coming to Huntsman and says it’s amazing how little things like candid conversations with nurses and physicians, or a simple window to look out while he received his chemo, make such a big difference.

“Being able to look over the valley and mountains instead of a hospital room TV while you get treatment really helps,” he said. “The nurses are fantastic, the level of care they show is extremely high and that’s a big comfort. They are really focused on getting you the care that you need in a timely manner so you can get out of there because despite how nice it is, they know that people want to be in their own homes.”

Goody knew Huntsman was the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in the Intermountain West, and that he would benefit from the most current screening, diagnostic, and treatment methods available.

In addition to the facility and amenities, Tyler appreciated the way he was treated by the doctors, nurses and staff. Quick turnaround time on blood tests and being kept in the loop is something he felt was a valuable asset in getting through treatment.

“I never wondered where I was in my treatment and if my chemo was working or not,” he said “They tested right away and there was almost no waiting around which was a big help.”

Tyler says his swimming helped put cancer into perspective, and completing the Ice Mile is something he would draw on when the chemo left him physically and mentally exhausted.

“One of the best ways to describe when you’re doing a swim like that is your brain and your body go into all-out war against each other and against you,” he said. “You’re constantly fighting against your body to keep moving because it wants to stop, and your brain wants you to stop too.”

Tyler said some of his “warm-water” (50-60 degree) marathon swims can last six to seven hours and, just like the Ice Mile, draw undeniable parallels with cancer treatment where infusions can span five straight days, lasting up to six hours each day.

“I’m used to being uncomfortable for long periods of time doing these swims,” he said. “That’s a big benefit when you go in for chemotherapy. It’s an advantage I have, because you’re going to be uncomfortable for long periods. You are going to be sick, and tired, and agitated, and hungry all at the same time, and yet you have to keep going forward.”


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