Partners in the Fight Against Cancer – Collaboration with Mayo Clinic is a seamless process for Cedar Rapids man

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Bryan Gates doesn’t sound like a guy with cancer. This self-described “Bryan with a Y” is easy-going and quick with a joke even when talking about the challenges he’s facing.

Gates, 61, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in January 2017. This cancer begins in the cells that line the esophagus (the tube that runs from your stomach to your throat) and strikes men more often than women. What causes it is not clear. Says Gates with a laugh, “Maybe it was all that Mountain Dew I drank as a kid!”

He underwent six rounds of chemotherapy, then surgery, with more chemo to follow. Gates adds, “The cancer was causing internal bleeding and I was slowly fading away. I had six blood transfusions before the chemo shrunk the tumor.”

Gates had his first round of chemo as well as his surgery at Mayo Clinic. His sister-in-law is a professor at Mayo, which makes it convenient for him to receive care there. But after his first chemo session, Gates said, “I told them I’d like to get the rest of my treatment at PCI.”

Dr. Bharat Jenigiri of Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa (PCI) Hematology & Oncology is Gates’ physician. Dr. Jenigiri says his practice often collaborates with Mayo Clinic.

“They send a lot of their patients from Iowa to us. And we use e-consults with Mayo when we want a second opinion on a patient’s care here.” These electronic consultations are made possible by UnityPoint Health Cedar Rapids, a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network.

“It’s a seamless process,” explains Dr. Jenigiri. “The physicians at Mayo have access to UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Hospital’s imaging system so they look at the same images I see. We consult with them for complicated cases. We also reach out to them when we are trying to decide between multiple treatment options.”

Gates came through his pre-surgical chemotherapy with minimal side effects. But he learned many chemo patients are bothered by increased sensitivity to cold, especially in their hands. “My wife Julie and I had been thinking about how we could give back to others,” says Gates. “A light bulb went off and we realized we could make hand-warmers. Julie’s sewed about 300 so far. We give them to chemo patients and also to rheumatology patients with arthritis.”

Gates hopes his story will reassure cancer patients who “hear chemo and instantly think they will have a huge problem with side effects. That’s not always the case any more.” Dr. Jenigiri agrees, “There are newer drugs that provide targeted treatment with no side effects. We also have drugs that are really effective at controlling reactions like nausea. We try to find options for each patient that provide the most benefit with the least side effects.”

“Dr. Jenigiri and his staff bend over backwards for you,” says Gates. “You can tell they’re concerned about their patients. I have been subjected to the most effective kindnesses here and deeply appreciate it.”

The partnership with Mayo Clinic provides world-class care, right here at home. Find out more.

Want to show your appreciation for the special caregivers who made your family’s cancer journey easier? The Guardian Angel program is a meaningful way to say “thank you,” while helping to fund programs and services for cancer patients and their loved ones. Call (319) 369-8100 for information on how you can give or click here.

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