Doctor, cancer survivor praises Lakeview

Success of oncology department highlights Foundation breakfast

Gazette photo by Avery Cropp
Dr. Richard Marnach talked about his treatment for pancreatic cancer at Lakeview Hospital during the Lakeview Foundation Community Breakfast Thursday morning at the Lake Elmo Inn Event Center.

LAKE ELMO — Lakeview Hospital’s oncology department and its success stories were highlighted at the annual Lakeview Foundation Community Breakfast this morning at the Lake Elmo Inn Events Center.

Oncologist Dr. Candy Corey, and her patient, Dr. Richard Marnach, were featured speakers at the annual event.

“I’ve been working at Lakeview since 1999 and when we started it was a makeshift clinic,” Corey said. “By 2009, we opened our cancer care center with two oncologists, and a work space that included 10 infusion and chemotherapy chairs.”

She added that Lakeview has since started clinical trials in 2011, and most of their doctors are fully booked. She added the Lakeview merger with HealthPartners provided back-up and radiation therapy treatment to their medical group in western Wisconsin.

The oncology department has big plans going forward. They hope to become a certified cancer center and begin a survivorship program to ensure patients have proper follow-up and monitoring to ensure that they and their families are coping with the history of cancer.

Marnach is one of those cancer survivors.

“I do have pancreatic cancer and for most doctors, it’s considered the kiss of death,” Marnach said. “Pancreatic cancer patients usually have only four to six months on average and by the time I found out about my cancer, I was at the end stage of the disease which means it can’t get any worse.”

His cancer journey began when he went to a different hospital and got a complete work up because he wasn’t feeling well.

“I was scanned head to toe, paid $30,000 in lab bills and they came back with nothing,” Marnach said. “They came back saying I was functional, which is basically a doctor’s way of describing you as a crock. Though there was the one doctor who was concerned I was a ‘spook.’ A spook is a crock that’s actually sick.”

Marnach then went to Stillwater Medical Group and was correctly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 20 minutes.

As a doctor with cancer, Marnach said he felt like the last person on the Titanic as the ship sinks and the cold water comes over the edge of the ship. You’re alone, helpless and you feel overwhelmed, out of options and placed simply on the dead pile.

Marnach continued his treatment at a hospital that he now refers to as an urban regional site of oncological lassitude, or his chosen acronym U.R. SOL.  After three months of treatment, Marnach said his cancer had metastasized and his doctor was not interested in giving him anything but the standard chemo. He ended up at Lakeview in critical condition one night because his doctor hadn’t been watching his electrolytes. After receiving outstanding care he switched from his doctor to Corey.

“The switch resulted in the unthinkable, two significant remissions from pancreatic cancer through Lakeview Oncology, home care and pallative care. I am now alive two years out from my diagnoses,” Marnach said. “Thank you Lakeview for saving my life and giving me more quality time with my kids.”

After Marnach’s speech, Lakeview Foundation Board Member, Ron Phillipo encouraged those in attendance to donate to Lakeview so they could continue providing care to the community through their programs: Healthcare Access which serves those who would be without health care; D.I.A.M.O.N.D. which serves patients with depression; diabetes education which teaches patients how to manage their chronic condition; Hospice Care and the Gathering at Boutwells which covers costs of those unable to afford residential care and support dying patients; prescription assistance which helps patients obtain affordable prescriptions; health and wellness scholarships and PowerUP.