Cancer Patient Counted on NWCC Opening in Time for His First Treatment

With months to go before the new Northwest Wisconsin Cancer Center (NWCC) was scheduled to open, Ashland resident Wayne Griffiths received the news that he had prostate cancer.

“From the moment I was diagnosed, I counted every brick being laid on that cancer center,” says Griffiths. “Throughout my life, I’ve always said that my maternal grandmother was my guardian angel. I believe that she was standing behind the cancer center’s contractor urging him to hurry because her grandson needed its services.”

Griffiths first learned he might have cancer when his primary care physician called him.

“I was enjoying an excellent northern Wisconsin day when Dr. Matheus called to tell me that my PSA (prostate-specific antigen) count was significantly higher than normal and he needed to see me,” says Griffiths.

Dr. Andrew Matheus referred Griffiths to Essentia Health urologist Dr. Paul Tonkin who did the biopsy that confirmed Griffiths’ prostate cancer.

“Receiving a diagnosis of prostate cancer came as a shock,” says Griffiths. “My immediate reaction was, I wanted to stay close to home for the radiation treatments I would need. I knew how taxing traveling for cancer treatments could be because I had driven friends to their treatments. I’d heard people talk about feeling depressed and tired after having to travel four or more hours a day for treatment.”

Griffiths also wanted the cancer center to be complete because he had done research about the care he could expect and he was encouraged by what he learned.

“I was a medic in the military and I’m also retired from the information technology industry,” says Griffiths. “So, I did my homework, comparing the technology and treatment I would be receiving at NWCC to the Mayo Clinic and even Cleveland Clinic. I found that the experienced physicians, the technicians and the advanced technology I would need were all going to be blocks away from me.”

Griffiths needed to have the robotic surgery necessary to begin treating his prostate cancer before the cancer center was complete. However, the center was open just in time for him to receive the seven weeks of five-day-a-week radiation treatments he would need. His radiation oncologist, Dr. John Boyle, trained at Duke University, which gave Griffiths peace of mind.

Members of the Northwest Wisconsin Cancer Center care team with Wayne Griffiths. From left to right: Dr. John Boyle; Kelly Lautenschlager, Radiation Therapist; Wayne Griffiths; Evan Nelson, Radiation Therapist; and Scott Davis, Dosimetrist.

“That first day took me back to my medic days,” says Griffiths. “I saw young, research-university-trained people doing high-tech, life-saving work and I immediately felt confident.”

Griffiths also took comfort in having people close to him be such an important part of his care.

“My wife Donna is a retired physical therapist—she was my advocate through the entire process and came along with me to my treatments,” says Griffiths. “There is a family feel at NWCC. You know the people treating you.”

Griffiths wants everyone to know that you aren’t sacrificing quality by being treated close to home.

“It’s amazing that in a town with seven traffic lights, you can receive some of the best medical treatment available to anyone in the country,” says Griffiths.

Wayne Griffiths received his last radiation treatment at NWCC on February 7, 2017. He is grateful that he didn’t have to travel for his care and he and Donna are looking forward to many days to come enjoying the good life in northern Wisconsin.