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The Power of Hope: A Decade-long Friendship between Patient and Doctor

Read Time: 4 minutes

In 2011, Lowry Bushnell received life-changing news from his doctors. When Lowry first came to Huntsman Cancer Institute to meet with Jonathan Tward, MD, PhD, he felt hopeless. He’d been diagnosed with prostate cancer and told it would be fatal—that he had three years, maybe four. Now, 12 years later, Lowry’s visits with Dr. Tward are social.

Video Transcript

Lowry Bushnell: I was diagnosed with a cancer I was told would be fatal. I still remember the words, “You'll be dead in three years, maybe four. Don't think about five; that will never happen.” 

When I saw you two days later, you showed us studies¬, most of which had bar graphs that ended at about three years. And then you showed us one that had these very tall bar graphs and said, you know, I'd like to provide you the service that was used in this study, if you'll agree with that. I don’t know if you remember me calling you at one time, and I said, “Dr. Tward, you think I'm going to live. Everybody else thinks I'm gonna die. When am I going to know how this is really going to turn out?”

Jonathan Tward, MD, PhD: I am pretty optimistic. I think if you're an oncologist, you better be, you know, fairly optimistic. You have to be realistic, as well, because, you know, you don't want to give people the wrong impressions and, you know, you have to set expectations appropriately. Our research really did suggest that that treatment pathway would probably lead to an 80 to 90% probability of success.

Lowry Bushnell and Jonathan Tward, MD, PhD, embrace at Huntsman Cancer Institute

“The closeness of the doctor-patient relationship started with the very first meeting. It gave me strength. I had such confidence that I was in the hands of a really good doctor who is a really good person. That meant a great deal to me.”

Lowry Bushnell: You know, the Huntsman Cancer Institute meant so much to me because I knew that if Jon Huntsman hadn't put up the money he did, and the inspiration he did, that this wouldn't be here.  You wouldn't be here, and I would be dead in three years. You know, I've said to many people since then, that the most important thing that Dr. Tward did was not to save my life—it was to give my wife hope. We left with hope, and that made the interaction terrific.

Jonathan Tward: You know, you talk about looking at those graphs and whatnot. Those graphs were actually generated here in our own research program, but I knew that we had outstanding success with it. That's why I was so convicted that it's what I would pursue if I were the patient. And I also still remember too, you know, the difference on your face and your wife's face as you left, thinking, maybe I actually will see some grandchildren being born, and possibly some great grandchildren. We've formed a very close bond since that time. That was over a decade ago, but the fact that we did that and left you feeling like a vibrant person who could, you know, just kind of continue on, is what's really one of most gratifying parts of it.

Lowry Bushnell: I think I feel as healthy and young as I did in the several years before the cancer showed up. I had confidence that the treatment I was getting was the best treatment that could be offered regardless of how it turned out. And that gave me peace.

Lowry Bushnell, his wife, and two grandchildren near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Lowry, his wife, and two of his grandchildren at Yellowstone. Arwyn, far left, was four years old when Lowry was diagnosed with cancer. This spring, Lowry will travel to Michigan to be there when she graduates from high school. He credits Huntsman Cancer Institute and Dr. Tward.

Jonathan Tward: I remember when I was thinking about coming here. I came here for training and then stayed on as faculty. The Huntsman Cancer Institute was basically a brand new research facility. I said, they're building something special out there, and I think I want to be part of it.

There are so many people that you will never even see who are working on making the patient better. The pathologists, the surgeons, the medical oncologist, nutritionist, the genetic counselors, the nurses, everything. And then, on top of that, throw in the clinical trials. All those people poured literally hundreds of hours into your treatment plan, just your treatment plan, which I think are also critical to give people more choices, more hope.

Lowry Bushnell: I had such confidence that I was in the hands of a really good doctor who was a really good person. Yeah, that meant a great deal to me. People ask me about being a cancer survivor and what did you learn and all, and I find myself going, well, that I had a future. That I had grandchildren that I could maybe see graduate from high school. This means everything. It means so much to me.

Cancer touches all of us.