Photographer credits Cancer Center for health and more hobbies

Roger Spillman marveled daily at nature’s beauty as he hiked outdoors, trying to capture it in his photographs. The 71-year-old resident of Blackfoot also recognized the delicate beauty of hardwoods as he turned them on his lathe, transforming them into works of art.

A retired Army helicopter repairman and maintenance supervisor at Blackfoot School District #55, Roger enjoyed living alone with his hobbies. But once he received a startling diagnosis, he no longer had the energy to enjoy anything.

“I was out mowing my lawn,” he said, “and I would have to stop a lot because I was short of breath. I’d mow a little, sit, mow some more then sit some more. I also felt a lump in my chest that I hadn’t felt before.”

Roger visited his doctor, a biopsy confirmed cancer and he was then referred to Douglas Andersen, DO, a board-certified oncologist at Portneuf Cancer Center. Dr. Andersen took a biopsy of the lump and determined it was cancerous.

Diagnosis and chemotherapy

Roger was diagnosed with plasmablastic lymphoma, an uncommon and aggressive form of cancer that begins in the lymph nodes and then travels to other parts of the body.

Not only is it a rare type of cancer, but 90% of people diagnosed with this type of cancer also have AIDs. Roger doesn’t have AIDS, so his case was even rarer. To ensure diagnosis and treatment, his case was reviewed by oncologists at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

“I’ve got lymphoma,” he said, “cancer of the lymph system, which is the sewer system of our bodies. It goes everywhere, so cancer can go everywhere too.”

Following The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) guidelines, Dr. Andersen prescribed a series of chemotherapy sessions that included both intravenous chemotherapy administered through an IV port and spinal infusions. The spinal infusion, also known as a lumbar puncture, is a minimally invasive test that removes a small about of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that is sent to a lab for testing. During that same procedure, the provider administers chemotherapy drugs directly into the CSF.

Roger’s treatment schedule was 5 days of chemotherapy and then 2 weeks off. “My first day of chemotherapy didn’t go very well,” said Roger. “But Dr. Andersen and the team adjusted the dose and the subsequent sessions went better. The chemotherapy has still taken me down. I can't even mow the lawn now.”

Roger is thankful to be able to receive his treatments locally at the Portneuf Cancer Center as fatigue brought on by chemotherapy can make driving difficult.

“I couldn't eat for 2 weeks because the inside of my mouth was torn up,” Roger said. “When I started chemo I weighed 250 pounds but eventually got down to 177.”

High-quality care

Despite the hardships of enduring the chemotherapy, Roger highly recommends Portneuf Cancer Center.

“Dr. Andersen and the staff of Portneuf Cancer Center are awesome, very professional and courteous. They go out of their way to make your visit the best that it can be. I don't think there is a better place to go for my treatment,” he said.

“What struck me was that they are so concerned about you, your cancer, everything about your mental and physical health. When I was there for chemotherapy, the staff went out of their way to make my stay bearable. They also have great food that tastes very good.”

More photography and woodcraft

Roger recently finished his chemotherapy sessions, which means he is heading into the New Year with plans to restart his hobbies in earnest.

“I want to go back out and take pictures, especially outdoor photography, landscapes and animals. One of my ‘bucket list’ items is to go back to Vermont during the fall and photograph all the colors.”

Roger also wants to continue working on his lathe to turn wood into delicate Christmas ornaments, bowls and hourglasses. “You name it, I can do it on a lathe.”

Through all the chemotherapy sessions to fight his cancer, Roger remains determined to keep a good attitude. “I have decided to look for the good in everything. I'm not going to go out as a grumpy old man. I'm going to go out happy.”

If you would like more information about the Portneuf Cancer Center Center, visit our web page.