Every two weeks, Robb Rettie, MD, drives from his home in Danville to CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care in Lexington for treatment. He could access the treatment at a cancer care center in his hometown, but the hour-long drive to Lexington is worth it for Rettie.
“We knew Dr. (Scott) Pierce was excellent, so it wasn’t really a matter of searching around,” he said. “It was a matter of knowing who was really good at what they did and, of course, I’m very comfortable with Saint Joe’s care. So it was an easy decision to stick with Saint Joe and Dr. Pierce.”
It all started with the flu. When he never quite recovered from a bout a few years ago, Rettie, a physician with CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Pediatrics in Nicholasville, had several tests, including a colonoscopy.
He was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer when he was just 49 – a few months shy of getting his first routine colonoscopy, which was recommended at age 50. The American Cancer Society now recommends regular screening for colorectal cancer begin at age 45.
About four weeks after surgery, he saw Dr. Pierce and the treatments at the Bob-o-Link Drive location began.
“The care at Saint Joe’s oncology – the people are so personable … they care,” he said. “I always tell folks, you can be treated, but you want folks who take care of you, who care about you, who care about your progress … the highs and the lows.”
He feels that every time he comes into the infusion center; the nurses always ask about how he is and reference something going on in his life that he might have mentioned during a previous visit.
“I still work part-time because I love what I do,” he said. “I went back and saw my first couple of toddlers and realized how much I love what I do … I have had more fun taking care of kids in the last year and a half because your perspective is completely different about what is important in life and what is valuable.”
That perspective comes from knowing his fate is intertwined with the diagnosis he received more than a year ago. His colon cancer spread to his liver and lungs “and it’s not going to go away, so eventually it’s going to do me in.”
The average length of survival with a diagnosis such as his is a year and a half to two years.
“I’m at a year and a half and still feel really good,” he said. “I’m an eternal optimist, so I can’t think of anything other than being around for a long time.”
That’s just who he is, he said.
“The way I look at it is, I’m going to die someday, but that’s one day out of thousands,” Rettie said. “I don’t tend to dwell on the inevitable final outcome because that’s really going to be a very small part of my life.”
His family inspires his positive outlook and will to fight. He and Yvonne, his wife of 30 years, have a daughter, Vickie, who just started college at Otterbein in Ohio where she is working toward a career in zoology.
“When I was diagnosed – it’s a pretty devastating diagnosis … it takes awhile to adjust to that,” he said. “My initial goal was just to get her into college. Now my goal is to see her graduate and to see her graduate from graduate school and then to retire …”
Meanwhile, he continues his treatments in Lexington and travels every three months to Houston because he may qualify for some potential clinical trials in the future.
“There’s good folks everywhere, but for us … there just wasn’t any other real consideration because we knew we were going to get great care, and we have.
“Would I have gone elsewhere if I felt like it was going to be beneficial to me? Absolutely,” he said. “I have a lot of faith in Saint Joe’s.”