May 2021
A monthly newsletter to keep you informed about what is happening at the June E. Nylen Cancer Center.
"I Can Do Anything If I Put My Mind To It"

Pam Gotto of Sioux City has always believed she was a strong woman and if she put her mind to it, she could do anything. That belief has been tested over the last few years as she has been going through treatment for multiple myeloma.

Her journey began in January 2018 when she started having back pain but passed it off as injuring it while shoveling snow. Weeks went by and the pain wasn’t getting better so she saw both a chiropractor and her primary care physician, Dr. Alisa Olson of UnityPoint Clinic – Family Medicine Sunnybrook. Pam started physical therapy, but even with high pain tolerance, the back pain progressed.

Pam listened to her gut that something was not right and returned to Dr. Olson who found Pam’s proteins were off after lab tests. Pam was referred to the June E. Nylen Cancer Center and had her initial appointment on June 8, 2018. She recalls being in a daze while listening to her medical oncologist, Dr. Nasser Abu, telling her she had multiple myeloma and explaining what that was. Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells, which are mainly found in bone marrow. Myeloma cells also interfere with the cells that help keep bones strong and bone matter actually dissolves. Thus, some of Pam’s pain was because she had numerous broken and cracked ribs. Dr. Abu ordered more tests for Pam. 
Pam in the hospital for her stem cell transplant.
Pam and one of her brothers.
But Pam didn’t make it to her next appointment. By the last week of June, she couldn’t get out of bed. All she could do was cry from excruciating pain. Her neighbor came to check on her, called Pam’s sister, and her brother who lived nearby came to take her to the hospital. Thanks to some pushing from her brother, Pam was admitted into UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s where they found 8 compression fractures in her back – caused by the myeloma. Dr. Abu saw Pam in the hospital and said she was getting progressively worse quickly so they needed to treat her quickly.

Pam started with concentrated radiation on her back. A medical transport vehicle would come every day to the hospital to take her to and from the radiation treatment for 2 weeks. When she was finally released from the hospital, she needed a caretaker. A friend of the family and practically an adopted grandson, Skyler, moved in and was the help she needed.

“I could hardly walk. I was on a lot of drugs for my pain. I didn’t have an appetite so I lost a lot of weight. And I was 5 inches shorter due to the compression fractures,” says Pam. “But I was determined to get off all those medicines and over time was able to do that. I attest my recovery to Skyler. I was so thankful he was willing to help me because my only other option was a care facility.”

In February 2019, Pam met with Dr. Muhamed Baljevic at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) to start the preliminary steps for a stem cell transplant. First, Pam received high-dose chemotherapy to kill the cells in her bone marrow, then she received new, healthy stem cells. She says, “February 20 was my new birthday, the day I received my stem cells.”

While the stem cell transplant was considered successful and Pam was feeling good, Dr. Abu saw something “off” in Pam’s proteins during a follow-up in February 2020 so she returned to see Dr. Baljevic. Following a PET scan and a bone biopsy, Pam started a new treatment regimen to “get any last myeloma cells which are good at hiding.” She’s currently within that regimen which includes multiple cycles of both infusion and oral medicines.

“I’m tired and I may have some minor side effects, but it’s all a piece of cake from what I went through with the pain earlier,” states Pam. “I’ve learned I can roll with anything.”

Pam also credits her faith and prayer partners for helping her get through the tough times. “On the days you cannot look in the mirror and tell yourself what’s good, then you have to have people who will help pull you out of the negative.”

Pam says it was important that she maintained her sense of humor, even though at times she knows she drove her family and others crazy. She adds, “I learned asking for help is not a bad thing. It may be difficult, but there are a lot of good people out there willing to help. Find a few dependable ones who can be your shining angels.” Pam is very thankful for her shining angels.

“I appreciate the great physicians and staff at the June E. Nylen Cancer Center because they show genuine concern and support for me. They always answer my questions or find someone who can. Everyone is positive and helpful – and not just with me. I see it with every patient.”

While multiple myeloma is not curable, Pam says her treatment is allowing her to live her life doing what she enjoys. Reading, digging in the dirt growing flowers, spending time with her family and friends, and going to work at Rosenthal Foods where she has worked since 1974. “Whatever is ahead, I am strong and I will deal with it as it comes. All through the grace of God.” 
Health Science Students at Sioux City Career Academy Create Sun Safety PSAs
The June E. Nylen Cancer Center (JENCC) was excited to partner with the Sioux City Career Academy during skin cancer awareness month (May) to help the Health Science Pathway students have a hands-on learning project that could help decrease sunburns and in the long-term, decrease skin cancer diagnoses in Siouxland.

Here is why:

  • Melanoma is one of the top 5 cancer diagnosis in our tri-state region.

  • 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.

  • After 5 sunburns, your risk of developing skin cancer doubles.

  • Sun damage is cumulative - about 23% of your lifetime exposure occurs by age 18 and another 47% between ages 19 and 40.

  • Less than one-third of the population uses sunscreen.
The goal of the students' project was to produce a 30-second educational video (or PSA) targeting 3-5 graders or middle school students with sun safety messages that would help inform and change behaviors while young in order to decrease sun burns and thus, decrease skin cancer diagnoses long-term. The Health Science students were divided up into 13 teams. "Critical Friends" provided feedback on each team's concept and rough version of the PSA before their final project was submitted. A winning PSA was selected and will be aired on KCAU TV 9 this summer to help promote the sun safety message.

Congratulations to all 13 teams! The selection process was tough! Each team's creativity, messaging, and use of technology was impressive. Each team should be proud of their project.

1.      Winning PSA = Gwen Burnight / Ella Jepsen / Mazy Pick / Jordayn Reising 
2.      Second Place = Lacy Barger / Bella Custer / Hailey Groendyk / Tegan Monlux
3.      Third Place = Brayden Allan / Alyssa Diaz / Lily Larsen
4.      Honorable Mention = Brylee Hempey / Madi Mckeever / Stacie Snyder

We have added all the PSAs to a blog on our website. You can watch them all HERE.

P.S. The winning PSA being aired this summer on KCAU will be reinforced with our "Sunscreen for Siouxland" project. We are expanding the free sunscreen dispensers to be available at each pool and splash pad in Woodbury, Plymouth, Union and Dakota counties this summer. The free sunscreen dispensers (piloted last summer) are funded through donations by our physicians and staff.

In The News
We are excited to share that our Medical Oncology Nurse Manager Joni Greder, RN, BSN, OCN was one of five nurses honored during Nurses Week in early May at the Sioux City Journal's third annual "Nurses, the Heart of Health Care" awards. We are excited for Joni and appreciate the impact she makes in our organization.

Read the Journal’s article about Joni and the award HERE.
We appreciate KTIV News 4 helping raise awareness about a new specialized PET/CT scan available to patients in Siouxland at our Cancer Center. This scan, called Detectnet™ or Cu-64 Dotatate, uses a different radioactive diagnostic agent from a routine PET scan that is specifically for detecting, staging, and restaging neuroendocrine tumors. Watch the story HERE.
Proud to partner with KCAU 9 News and the Health Science Pathway at the Sioux City Community School District's Career Academy for this hands-on project. Their work to create 30-second PSAs will educate and influence elementary and middle school aged children to develop the habit of wearing sunscreen and protecting their skin now will prevent long-term skin cancer. Watch the story HERE.
Save the Dates

  • June 25 is "Tough Enough to Wear Pink" at the Days of '56 PRCA Rodeo in Ponca which is in honor of breast cancer awareness and a portion of ticket sales benefit JENCC.

  • September 10 is the 22nd annual Pink Ribbon Golf Classic at the Green Valley Golf Course in Sioux City. Proceeds from the tournament benefit JENCC.

Did You Know?
Sunday, June 6 is National Cancer Survivors Day. This day is a day of celebration for all cancer survivors and their families and friends and a day to raise awareness of cancer and how it affects lives. There are nearly 17 million people living with and beyond cancer in the U.S. today – and more than 32 million cancer survivors worldwide. 
Learn more HERE.
The Impact of Philanthropy Is Immeasurable
A big thank you to Delivering Hope. Started by Rachel in honor of her grandma, now her family (her mom, Jodi, shown here), friends, and additional supporters are involved in this cause that impacts patients and lets them know someone cares for them.
We are honored to have been chosen as the recipient of the monthly tip jar at Uncommon Grounds coffee shop in Sloan. Thank you for your support, kind words, and warm hearts!

3 cheers to the Morningside University Softball Team for their "Strike Out Cancer" games. Thank you for paying tribute to the continual fight against cancer and your support in helping JENCC provide the highest quality, compassionate care through prevention, treatment, and research.
Thank You!