Keith Guernsey was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and was discharged after less than four months of treatment—describing his health as “pretty close to perfect.” Keith’s strength, optimism and willful attitude fuel our commitment to giving cancer patients a reason to celebrate. Read below for more of Keith's story, in his own words...
What are the events that led up to your cancer diagnosis?
In 2018, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I had my prostate removed and was told that it was a complete success. Shortly thereafter, during a routine follow-up, high levels of protein were identified in my bloodwork. As a result, I was sent to a hematologist for further review and was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a treatable, but not curable, disease.
What treatment did you receive?
I was fortunate to be sent to Dr. Padma Nadella, an excellent hematologist at Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic. I received RVD treatment, a three- drug regimen that includes lenalidomide (Revlimid®), bortezomib (Velcade®), and dexamethasone for about three months. Following that treatment, I was sent to Dr. Melhem Solh of The Blood & Marrow Transplant Group of Georgia (BMTGA) to ensure that I was a candidate for a stem cell transplant. Luckily, I was a viable candidate. My stem cell transplant was successful and included an eight-week period of treatment recovery. I graduated from BMTGA in November of 2019 and have felt great ever since!
How and where did you receive support during your treatment and recovery?
My wife, Susan, has been amazing during the entire journey! She was my sole caregiver, and I feel extremely fortunate to have her by my side. Also, I have to say that everyone on the care teams at both Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic and Northside Hospital Cancer Institute were amazing and helpful! They are the best of the best in my opinion!
What advice do you have for someone navigating their treatment and recovery journey?
I would suggest that they follow the nine-point plan I developed called “Living Well With Cancer.” I have followed this plan faithfully, and as a result, I feel healthier than ever. Of the nine steps, I would say that step three, following your doctor’s instructions to the letter regarding your prescriptions is the most important.
Keith’s 9-step plan for "Living Well With Cancer"
- Get the best medical care possible (get a second or third opinion if necessary). You owe it to yourself, your family and friends to get the best care possible!
- Surround yourself with family and friends who will help (and provide a support system) when necessary.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter regarding your prescriptions.
- Get proper nutrition—I eat lots of fruit and vegetables with every meal.
- Get lots of exercise—walking is great.
- Vitamins—I take 5 different types every day.
- Hydrate, hydrate and then hydrate some more! Medical experts say you should drink 64 ounces of a clear liquid like water (but not vodka!) per day!
- Sleep—get some! Again, experts recommend 6-8 hours per night. I shut off my phone and all other electronic devices an hour before bedtime. I then take a long hot shower, shut off all the lights and am off to la-la-land until morning!
- Cultivate and maintain a positive mental attitude. I have a very dear friend who is a retired cardiologist, and he says that my positive attitude has been instrumental in my beating cancer twice recently.
How far out are you from treatment or is treatment ongoing?
I have been in remission since February of 2020 and continue maintenance treatment. Once in remission, I realized I wanted to give back in some way and help others navigating their own cancer journeys. In March of 2020, I was selected as a Myeloma Coach by the HealthTree Foundation and have enjoyed every minute of it.
Keep moving forward! You must be relentless, resilient and persistent! I feel healthier (both mentally and physically!) at 69 than at any time since I stopped playing hockey at age 28. Now I am so happy! I have my new friends and my new life. I am even breathing differently. I actually experienced cancer, surgery, radiation and chemo for over a year and have not missed a beat. I do not really think about it; all I think about is living.
UPDATE – October 2021
In October 2021, Keith was diagnosed with melanoma after visiting his dermatologist for suspicious spots on the back of his neck and right clavicle. He was referred to Dr. Nicole Kounalakis of Melanoma & Sarcoma Specialists of Georgia.
“My first reaction was ‘not again!’,” said Keith. “Dr. ‘K’ made it so easy! She removed all the melanoma in a six-hour surgery… I have felt great ever since!”
Keith is undergoing immunotherapy once a month to ensure the melanoma doesn’t return. He says he feels better “at 69 years young that at anytime since I stopped playing hockey at 28.”
When asked about his experience at Northside, Keith said, “Everyone was so kind and attentive to my needs.”
“As a three-time cancer survivor I feel it is important for me to give back I have joined the leadership team of the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life,” he added. “I would encourage everyone to join us in helping to rid the world of this horrible disease.”
After returning home following his multiple myeloma treatment, Keith sent this video "Thank You" to his health care heroes at Northside for their unwavering care and patience throughout his recent cancer stay.
*The health story shared here may portray atypical results of survival for this type of cancer, given its severity and stage. Atypical results are considered surviving a cancer that has less than a 50 percent five-year survival rate. Patients should consult an expert to discuss specific treatment plans and the possible outcomes before making medical decisions.