Real Patients, Real Stories

BYU Coach Survives Pancreatic Cancer, Praises Huntsman Cancer Institute for Exceptional Care



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On a flight from California to Las Vegas, BYU basketball head coach Dave Rose became ill, feeling so dizzy and lightheaded that he wasn’t able to sit up. Paramedics took him from the plane directly to the hospital where the doctors discovered a tumor in Dave’s stomach and proceeded to remove it along with his spleen, a portion of his pancreas, and nearby lymph nodes.

A biopsy revealed that the tumor was malignant, and after a few days recovering from surgery, Dave was transferred to University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) to recuperate from surgery and undergo additional testing which would determine the type of cancer in his body and the course of treatment he would need to pursue. Dave and his family were aware that pancreatic cancer is difficult to beat and they felt distraught as they contemplated the very real possibility that Dave was afflicted with this disease. During this difficult time, the comfortable surroundings and the positive, caring people at HCI comforted Dave and his family. He says, “When you’re diagnosed with cancer your whole life stops and you feel like its either the end or close to the end. We felt like the week that we were there helped us to get past that, to where we could think about life, down the road, even though we had a tough challenge.”

Courtney Scaife, M.D. and the Treatment Planning Conference, a panel of physicians and medical professionals that meets weekly to review each patient’s condition and treatment plan, evaluated Dave’s case and discovered he had pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer—a very rare, but highly treatable form of the disease. And, because the surgeon who removed the tumor had been very thorough, there was no evidence of the disease remaining in Dave’s body. Dave wouldn’t have to have radiation or chemotherapy treatments—he would just need to have biannual cancer screenings. “It was the best news we could have received,” says Dave.

He also needed to learn how his body would function without a spleen and a full pancreas. Since his pancreas wouldn’t be producing as much insulin as it used to, learning about diabetes and how to control his blood sugar was crucial. He says, “It was very educational—I learned more about my body in a week than I probably learned in the previous 50 years because we spent a lot of time talking about how the spleen and pancreas work, and how not having pieces of those will affect my future. I became an expert on those things in a very quick time, and it was all a result of the staff and their willingness to help us.”

Now, two and a half years later, Dave’s cancer screenings continue to come back clear and he’s thankful for the expert care he received at HCI. He says, “We were at one of the best cancer hospitals in the world and we felt like the care that we got there was tremendous.”

Dave’s experience with cancer has made his work with the Children with Cancer Christmas Foundation even more meaningful. He and his wife Cheryl have volunteered with the organization for 15 years and are honorary chairs. Dave says, “You don’t know where cancer is going to affect you or your family. Hopefully we can find a cure. I’ll always be grateful for Jon (Jon M. Huntsman, founder of HCI) and his vision, because it’s been a great blessing in my life.”


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