Doctor: Guthrie maintained optimism through cancer fight

Don Guthrie optimism pancreatic cancer fight


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – As Don Guthrie faced his cancer in public, the doctor who oversaw his treatments said the man who was always the calming voice in bad weather never lost his sense of humor or his positive outlook, even near the end when he developed pneumonia and had to be hospitalized..

“I never saw, certainly not a 71 or 72 year-old, be on the vent and have the tube down their throat and still be waving at people, smiling and holding hands,” Dr. Ayla Kessler said.

Kessler credits that optimism, strengthened by the devoted support of his wife Debbie and the rest of his family, with giving Don more time with his loved ones.

“Debbie was very well informed on his case and was always the strong pillar in the family,” Kessler said. “She always kept his spirits up.”

It even gave a boost to other cancer patients who were aware of what Don was going through.

“They were really happy when he was responding to treatments,” Kessler said.

Unlike many other forms of cancer, pancreatic is often discovered at an advanced stage. Fewer than one percent survive more than a couple years, and many die within months.

Kessler said those diagnosed will most likely require intensive treatments the rest of their lives.

“The main goal of therapy is to try to overcome their symptoms, control them, give them good quality of life,” Guthrie said.

Kessler said it’s the job of the oncologist to set realistic goals for treatment and to encourage patients to keep looking forward, not on what she calls “the end result.”

“If you’re depressed, if you lose the fight basically psychologically, you’re gonna lose it physically,” Kessler said. “And you’re gonna succumb to the disease, and I think that’s one thing he didn’t do.”

And in the end, Guthrie provided inspiration to family, friends, co-workers and perhaps even other patients.

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