On June 22, 2022, Curt Ghormley went to see his family physician for a routine annual wellness visit which led to an 83-day hospital stay at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis' Cancer Institute.
"After they drew blood at my doctor's office, blood was running down my arm," said the 69-year-old. Once they got it stopped, he returned to work, only to get a call three hours later to go to the nearest ER to have the test repeated as his platelet count was four vs. the 150 or greater that it should be.
"I did and by then it had nosedived to two," said Curt, who was taken by ambulance to Ascension Via Christi St. Francis, where he was promptly admitted to the hospital’s Cancer Institute.
An aggressive diagnosis
Curt's diagnosis: Acute myeloid leukemia with a FLT-3 mutation, a very aggressive type of cancer that starts in the bone marrow and often moves into the blood.
Thirty days later, Curt was looking forward to going home the following morning. Instead, his spleen "exploded," and he began the precarious next legs of his hospital journey, ones that would include an emergency splenectomy, admission to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, a consult with an infectious disease specialist and dialysis due to failing kidneys and eventually back to Cancer Institute.
After several near-death experiences, Curt was finally ready to go home on Day 83 thanks to the ongoing support and prayers of his caregivers, family and friends.
Today, he is in remission, but continues to receive oral chemotherapy and biweekly blood work as part of the maintenance phase of his care.
"We do not always get to choose the trials we face; only how we face them," Curt wrote in his self-published book, "Alligator Wrestling in the Cancer Ward, How a Christian Tough-Guy Survived Leukemia with Gallows Humor, One-Liners and a Praying Posse."
The book is available for purchase on his website, at several local bookstores and, through the generosity of an anonymous donor, at no cost to patients and families receiving cancer care at Ascension Via Christi.
Passing along hope
Now a hospital volunteer, Curt distributes copies of the book during his brief patient visits every other Friday. It's his way of offering hope to others in their battles with cancer and lifting up the team that helped him survive.
"It buoys the spirits and that's important," said Curt, who knows first-hand the role that hope, prayer and a sense of humor, along with a great care team, plays in fighting cancer.
"I don't know where you would find a more dedicated, competent, knowledgeable, considerate and attentive staff than at the Cancer Center at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis," he wrote in his book's acknowledgments. "When I'm in trouble, I want this cadre at my side...
"They are pleasant, upbeat, communicative, tender, business-like when required, and damn-the-torpedoes aggressive in an emergency. I owe them my life."
Cancer is personal, so is the way we treat it
A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. With Ascension Via Christi Cancer Care in Wichita, Manhattan and Pittsburg, Kansas, you’re not alone. Upon your diagnosis you’ll meet with your multidisciplinary cancer care team including a care navigator. We’ll help you personalize a care plan just for you, with a goal of getting you back to home, family and your daily life.
Learn more at https://healthcare.ascension.org/specialty-care/cancer/why-ascension/ksasc-ks-cancer-care