Farmer turned historian has high praise for Cancer Center

“Getting a diagnosis of cancer is a big shock,” said Gus Bryngelson, a 67-year-old farmer from outside of Rupert where he lives with his wife Maggie.

“We all know someone who died of cancer, which was the first thing that came to my mind. However, once I started treatments, I learned that many people I know have gone through the same thing. In fact, I know more people who have survived cancer!”

For years, Gus worked the family farm with his father, focusing on raising crops and keeping the tractors in good running order while his father tended the livestock.

Three years ago he decided to rent the farm to his neighbor who then planted potatoes, sugar beets, grain, and corn. The timing of renting the farm was providential, as it happened just as Gus started showing symptoms of oral cancer.


“Last February, I was traveling home through Wyoming in a blizzard and I felt a cold coming on,” Gus said. “I had a bit of a sore throat, so I was rubbing my neck and noticed a lump.”

When he got home, Gus made an appointment with his primary care doctor. “His first step was to treat it as an infection, but after a week of antibiotics, there were no changes so he ordered a biopsy of the lump. The results came back as splinter cell cancer in my tonsils and lymph nodes, a type of cancer related to the human papillomavirus (HPV),” he said.

This news was disconcerting to both Gus and his doctor, as it was the same doctor who had previously diagnosed cancer in Gus’s father and cousin, both of whom had died from the disease.

With this diagnosis, Gus was referred to see Dr. Morgan Yost, an otolaryngologist (ENT) at Portneuf Medical Center. Dr. Yost conferred with the oncologists at Portneuf Cancer Center about removing the cancerous tonsils with a tonsillectomy. The oncologists initially gave the go-ahead for the surgery, which he then scheduled. However, later that evening, Dr. Yost, who had again discussed the case with Doug Andersen, MD, Oncologist, called Gus to cancel the tonsillectomy.

“After studying my case,” Gus said, “they believed that surgery was not needed. The cancer could be managed with chemotherapy and radiation. I was very pleased with the attention they were giving to my case.”


Gus was then referred to Dr. Douglas Andersen, an oncologist at the Cancer Center at Portneuf Medical. Center.

“Dr. Andersen went over the types of chemotherapy and their side effects,” said Gus. “He was initially hesitant to use the strongest drug available as it caused hearing loss. When I showed him my hearing aids, I told him I was willing to take the chance. He also told me about a research study at Idaho State University that was testing a drug that could lessen hearing loss, so I agreed and got signed up.”

Complicating matters was the arthritis Gus had endured for many years, causing overall body pain and swelling. The chemotherapy sessions to fight the cancer in his tonsils and lymph nodes had to be delayed 3 weeks so that the arthritis drugs he was on could clear his system.

“My throat had a fairly aggressive growing tumor, doubling in size every 3 months,” Gus said. “By the time I started chemo, the tumor was large enough to press on my esophagus and cause me to cough.”

In the midst of the chemotherapy on his throat, the hardest moments were always the first swallow of the day. “After that first one,” said Gus, “each swallow was better than the last.”

Fortunately, as soon as the chemotherapy treatments started, his arthritis went away. “When I was 6 weeks into the treatment, those were the hardest times, as I couldn’t swallow and had trouble eating,” he said. “But I was still feeling better than I was before I started treatments because I didn't have arthritis.”


According to his doctors, the most recent positron emission tomography (PET) scan showed Gus is clear of any active cancer. “Dr. Andersen and the radiologists all told me that if cancer returns, it will likely return in the first 2 years. So I am on a 3-month schedule of appointments with Dr. Yost, Dr. Andersen and the radiologists. As long as they don't see anything coming back, I've got a 90% chance of a cure. Right now, I am 100% in remission.”

One of the lasting side effects of the chemotherapy is oral thrush, a fungal infection of the mouth. “The thrush is easily treatable with a simple prescription, so I just call the Cancer Center. I know that team is always working for me.”

Gus has high praise for his doctors and staff at the Cancer Center.

“At each step in my cancer treatment, I was consulted and given the opportunity to make an informed decision about the type of treatment I would receive and the benefits to my quality of life.

The thing that really impressed me the most was how everyone in the center works together to make sure every patient gets the very best treatment.”

Putting patients first is a priority Gus saw throughout Portneuf Medical Center. “They all have the understanding that the best way for them to look good is for everybody to look good. There’s nobody trying to outshine someone else. They're all trying to make sure everybody gets things done right.”

Since the clear PET scans, Gus has become more active in his workshop, keeping his pickup and tractors in good running order. He has also spent more time with friends around the world discussing the history of the First World War.

“I recently started inviting guests to my small museum that holds my collection of uniforms and weapons. I have almost 40 mannequins wearing complete uniforms from 8-10 different countries that fought during WWI.”

He and his wife Maggie have started traveling more, taking a couple of cruises to Panama and other sites. They hope to take more trips this coming year.

None of this would have been possible, he said, without the staff at Portneuf Medical Center and the Portneuf Cancer Center. “The whole experience at Portneuf Medical Center was a very positive one. The biggest reason I did so well was the level of care I received at Portneuf.”

If you would like to learn more about the Cancer Center at Portneuf Medical Center, visit our web page or call the reception staff at (208) 239-1720.