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Breast cancer survivors speak out

The health care professionals at Ringgold County Hospital strongly encourage all women over the age of 40 to have an annual mammogram. It’s a simple, noninvasive procedure. “It’s only 10 minutes,” said Shelly Shields, medical imaging manager. “But those 10 minutes can save your life.” The 3D Mammography machine brings the most advanced imaging available today to the area. Patients don’t have to travel to get the best of the best. “The convenience of it being right here means we’re detecting more breast cancers, earlier,” said Shelly. “Early detection is what saves lives.”

Becky Andrews

Becky Andrews

“It’s my firm belief that everyone should get an annual mammogram. I usually get one every year on my birthday in August. But for some reason, I waited until December in 2018. If it weren’t for the 3-D machine, we never would have found the cancers. I had cancer in both breasts. “It was a big blessing that I didn’t have to do chemo. I had surgery in early 2019 along with radiation. For the next five years, I’ll take a pill as a preventative measure to prevent future cancer. But that’s it! I’m feeling good and doing well. Having a positive attitude is key. I knew that God would take care of me.”

Diane Wood

Diane Wood

“I’ve had a mammogram every year since I turned 40 because I have a family history of breast cancer. My mother, my grandmother and my grandmother’s five sisters all had it. Three years ago, when I was 69, my mammogram indicated stage one breast cancer.

“The doctor recommended a lumpectomy, but because of my family history, I opted for a double mastectomy. I had no radiation and no chemo and I’m feeling really good. My advice? Get a mammogram every year!”

Debbie Bradley

Debbie Bradley

“I’m very fortunate. Thirty-some years ago I became eligible to have regular mammograms through my insurance company. I started immediately and have never missed one. I lost a dear aunt to breast cancer and her memory was my motivation. In recent years, my husband and I have been going to Ringgold County Hospital for all our medical needs. When it was time for a mammogram in 2019, RCH had just installed a 3-D machine. They credit that machine for finding the cancer. It was really early detection and wasn’t even stage one yet. I was 73 years old. “My surgery was a lumpectomy and removal of three lymph nodes. That was followed by several radiation treatments. I received wonderful care from start to finish and recovered quickly. After my 2020 follow-up mammogram, I received a letter from RCH stating, “Your recent breast imaging showed an area that we believe is probably benign (probably not cancer). However, in six months, you should have a follow-up imaging to confirm that this area has not changed. “You can bet that I will be there in six months.”

Print and Read the Full Story – October Newsletter

Positive attitude helps in cancer fight

Math teacher, athletic coach, and cancer survivor, Brett Ruggles is surrounded by his family

Regular, routine health screenings are recommended for all adults, usually beginning at the age of 40. Checks for colon and prostate cancers are standard for men as they age. However, one type of cancer, testicular, is the most common malignancy found in young men, ages 15 to 35. There are no screenings for it and in most cases, there is no pain. Bruce Ricker, D.O. advises young men to “know their bodies and be aware of any changes.” For one testicular cancer survivor, Brett Ruggles, pain and discomfort were what drove him to be checked out seven years ago. The Mt. Ayr High School math teacher and basketball and softball coach said, “I started to feel a lot of pain. As males, we don’t talk about things like this. I kept thinking it would go away. It was January and it was basketball season. I thought I could get through it, but then everything started to hurt.” He went to his doctor and got an ultrasound and a pregnancy test. “Here’s an interesting thing,” he said. “I took a pregnancy test! If it comes up positive, you have cancer. Mine was positive.” Once he was diagnosed, he said the staff at Ringgold County Hospital sprang into action. “I went to the front of the line for all testing,” he recalled. He was quickly scheduled for surgery. “I had to announce to the basketball team that I was stepping away for a week or two. It was a tricky time. That team will always be special to me.”

Brett had Stage One, non-seminoma testicular cancer. After his surgery in January in 2013, he went through two cycles of chemotherapy beginning in early March. Like many cancer patients, he suffered hair loss and almost daily nausea. “On one of the hardest days, I remember I was typing lesson plans. I put my hands on my head and my hair was falling out in clumps. Out came the clippers and we shaved my head. I thought, this is for real.” Even on the darkest days, Brett always felt he could fight the cancer. “I remember getting home and thinking, it’s going to take a bigger bus than this to knock me down!” He missed some school days, games, and parent-teacher conferences. “My immune system was so low. And it was prime flu season at school.” But he has made a full recovery and credits his care at RCH and the hospital in Des Moines along with his positive attitude. “I never thought I would lose this battle,” he said. While he was going through treatment, he ran into author Jon Gordon who had written the book, “Feed the Positive Dog.” “I believe it. You must stay positive and fight. I had a T-shirt made!”

Brett had a lot to fight for. With a wife and three children, a high school full of math students, basketball and softball teams, there are plenty of people looking up to him. He was only 32 years old when he was diagnosed. “It’s usually a young man’s disease,” he said. “I was literally on the outside edge for this.” He admitted that when it comes to these personal types of cancers, no one wants to talk about it. “I take a different approach. I joke about it. I bring it up in class. I talk to my guys about the idea of checking themselves. I tell them that if it doesn’t feel right, it’s not right. I want everyone around me to understand that it’s ok to talk about.”

Moving to Mt. Ayr Improved Health Care

Jennifer Kellner and her father Lonnie Hawbaker are enjoying time together after his successful surgery.

The expression, “Having it all,” means different things to different people. To 70-year-old Lonnie Hawbaker, “having it all” describes his ability to have all his healthcare needs met in one place without having to travel. A retired civil engineer, he worked for the city of West Des Moines for many years before joining a national consulting firm and traveling the country. When he retired, he settled in Winterset, IA. After an ankle injury and with the encouragement of his daughter, RCH employee Jennifer Kellner, Lonnie moved to Mt. Ayr in April 2019.

It was the move to Mt. Ayr that helped him get a better handle on his health. A Type 2 diabetic, Lonnie wanted to get established right away with a local primary care physician. Jennifer recommended Katie Willcox, DO at the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic. “Dr. Willcox lives in Winterset, so I knew they’d have a shared connection,” she said. When Dr. Willcox learned that Lonnie had not had a colonoscopy in more than 20 years, she urged him to do so right away. “I wasn’t excited about getting one,” admitted Lonnie. “I thought why bother? We have no family history of colon cancer and I wasn’t having any issues. But with a new start and a new doctor, I thought I should probably listen to her.” The fact that he could have the screening at Ringgold County Hospital with Ed Wehling, DO also factored into his decision. “If I had needed to go to Des Moines, I wouldn’t have done it. It was convenient to do it here.” Dr. Wehling discovered some polyps that were not unusual, but he also found a pre-cancerous mass where the upper and lower colons come together. Lonnie explained, “They didn’t think it was cancer yet, but wanted to take it out as a precaution.”

About two months after Lonnie’s colonoscopy he had the surgery after getting clearance from his heart doctor and the rest of his medical team. During that time, Lonnie was able to work with physical therapists at Ringgold County Hospital too. “Both Dr. Wehling and the cardiologist thought it was a good idea to get my body in good shape before the surgery.”

“We were able to coordinate everything locally,” added Jennifer. “His pre-surgery physical, physical therapy, lab work, everything was done right here. We didn’t have to travel anywhere. From a patient’s perspective, it was wonderful.” Lonnie had surgery in late October 2019 and Dr. Wehling removed about 8 inches of his colon. “I’m feeling great today,” reported Lonnie. “It took about three days to recover from the surgery and then I spent about a week in skilled care. I had very little pain. Melissa Friedrich, the anesthesiologist, used new pain blocking techniques that really worked. I hardly had to take any pain medication afterward.”

About a month after the surgery, Lonnie celebrated his 70th birthday surrounded by his family. “For me, his birthday was a really big deal,” said Jennifer. “Finding the mass in his colon scared me a little. I realized that if we hadn’t found it, we might not be celebrating many more birthdays with him. We might not have had much more time together.” Both father and daughter agree that since Lonnie moved to Mt. Ayr, it’s been nice to be closer together. They go to church together. They make weekly grocery runs and spend family time together. It seems that for now, they really do have it all.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. To schedule a colonoscopy for yourself or a loved one, contact Ringgold County Hospital at 641-464-4433.

Welcome Zeeshan Jawa, MD

Welcome Zeeshan Jawa, M.D.

The Visiting Physicians Clinic at Ringgold County Hospital welcomes Dr. Zeeshan Jawa. He will be providing Oncology and Hematology services on the second Thursday of each month beginning January of 2020.  Dr. Roy Molina, who previously staffed the Oncology/Hematology Clinic for many years, is retiring. The entire team at RCH thanks Dr. Molina for his service. We will miss him and wish him well in retirement. 

Roy Molina, M.D. retired December of 2019

Dr. Jawa received his medical training at Lahore Medical and Dental College in Lahore, Pakistan, followed by an internal medicine internship and residency at St. Francis Hospital (University of Illinois at Chicago) in Evanston, IL. He completed his fellowship at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He joined MOHA in 2018.  To set an appointment with Dr. Jawa, call 641-464-4409.

Making a Difference for Cancer Patients

Roy Molina, M.D.

There is good news if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer or a blood disorder. If you’re a patient in the Ringgold County area, you have access to a top-notch oncologist without traveling far. Roy Molina, M.D. sees patients in the Ringgold County Hospital Visiting Physicians Clinic on the first Wednesday of every month. Dr. Molina joined Medical Oncology & Hematology Associates (MOHA) in Des Moines in 2000. He and his fellow oncologists travel throughout central Iowa to rural communities. “We feel we’re providing a good service to patients in rural areas,” he said. “A lot of times if oncologists don’t visit rural clinics, the patients don’t get treated at all. They decide they don’t want to travel, so they don’t.” “We’re very fortunate with the arrangement we have with the clinic in Mt. Ayr,” he continued. “They are willing and able to do the treatments here in the clinic. They had to get extra training in order to do it.” Dr. Molina signs the orders. Clinic staff administers the treatments and he monitors the patients during his monthly visits. “Not all rural hospitals are able to do the same thing. Some don’t want to bother with it. In which case the patients must come to Des Moines. If we can’t bring the treatment to them, it can create a hardship.” According to Dr. Molina, oncology patients are generally very grateful for what you can do for them. “They listen to suggestions and are compliant with their treatments. They want to get better. People often think it’s a dismal practice, because the outcomes are not always good. But we can help many, many patients,” he said. “We can help alleviate some symptoms and provide them with a reasonable quality of life. Even when we can’t cure the disease, we’re making a difference. It’s very satisfying.”

Dr. Molina trained at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston where he completed his internship and residency. He completed his fellowship in medical oncology at the University of Kansas and has double board certifications in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology. He had a practice in Columbia, MO before moving to Des Moines in 1990. When he’s not practicing medicine, Dr. Molina enjoys music, classical music in particular. He and his wife attend the symphony regularly, and he’s a pianist himself, even playing for his nurse at her wedding last year. He likes growing orchids and is a member of Central Iowa Orchid Society. Dr. Molina also enjoys traveling to see family and friends all over the United States.

If you find yourself in need of an oncologist, call 641-464-4409 to schedule an appointment.