‘An Easy Decision’ to Stick with Saint Joseph for Cancer Care

Robb Rettie, MD

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.”

Those with a History of Smoking Should Be Screened for Lung Cancer

Woman hiking in the woods

Smoking and lung cancer are a big problem nationwide. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and the second most diagnosed cancer in both men and women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With the second highest smoking rate in the country, Kentucky  has the highest number of new lung cancer cases diagnosed each year. About 90 percent of all lung cancer cases are caused by smoking. More than 3,300 Kentuckians died from cancer caused by smoking in 2016 alone – a number that is on the rise.  

Early detection dramatically increases the success rates of lung cancer treatment. That’s why people with a history of smoking should schedule a lung cancer screening. As the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout nears this November and consideration of smoking is on the minds of many, it’s the perfect time to schedule your screening.

Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Lung cancer can be difficult to detect, because there are virtually no symptoms until the disease reaches a dangerous stage. By the time it’s detected, lung cancer has often metastasized, or spread to other parts of the body. The sooner lung cancer is found, the more effective the treatment can be. When symptoms do appear, they might include:

  • Persistent coughing that doesn’t go away
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Frequent feelings of exhaustion
  • Coughing up blood

Scheduling your screening

The best way to protect yourself from lung cancer is to schedule a screening. Lung cancer screenings can help detect the cancer before dangerous symptoms appear, when the disease is most treatable.

Watch the video below to hear from Hawa Edriss, MD, pulmonologist and intensivist with CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group as she discusses the importance of lung cancer screenings.

We recommend that adults ages 55 and older with a history of smoking or frequent exposure to smoke get screened immediately. We also encourage former smokers who have quit smoking in the past 15 years to make an appointment for a screening.  

Doctors specializing in the lungs, called pulmonologists, will screen for, diagnose and treat lung cancer. They will likely use a noninvasive and painless screening procedure called a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan to detect any signs of lung cancer.

This scan allows the physician to examine different levels – or slices  – of the lung tissue at a time, which provides more accurate images of the lungs than a typical chest X-ray. With this attention to detail, the physician can identify the disease in its earliest stages and begin treatment right away.  

If you or a loved one is a smoker, schedule a quick and easy lung cancer screening today. Call 1.833.727.3362 now to schedule a low-dose CT lung scan at a CHI Saint Joseph Health location near you. 

Man on a Mission

James Rollins, MD with CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group - Orthopedics

James Rollins, MD, has been with the CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Orthopedics for three years and practiced medicine for almost two decades. He was raised in the church, and he grew closer to God following his medical residency’s completion, entwining his faith with his career.

“I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, and one of his messages is to be a disciple,” Dr. Rollins said. “One way I can do that is through what I do for a living, which is taking care of people.”

Heeding the call

Dr. Rollins doesn’t just offer orthopedic care to patients — he often provides treatment as a member of the Post Clinic in Mount Sterling.

The Post Clinic provides primary care and dental services to people without the means to pay for health care.

“I run the clinic once a month, performing surgeries for free,” Dr. Rollins said. “I’m a Gideon as well, so I offer free Bibles to every patient I operate on and will pray with them. I’ve seen about 30 people come to Christ from that ministry.”

Dr. Rollins is also president of the board for Hope Hill, a faith-based organization that helps children and young adults recover from trauma and more.

At home and abroad

While Dr. Rollins has made a career out of helping people in his community, he also provides aid outside of his career — and outside of the country. He has traveled to three different countries on mission trips in the past decade: Haiti in 2011, Honduras in 2013 and Africa in 2017. Dr. Rollins performed 16 surgeries while in Africa.

“The first two trips were focused on building projects, whereas Africa was a medical mission,” Dr. Rollins said. “That one was the most influential for me, since I was able to go there and use my expertise to help people who walked 20 or 30 miles for care.”

Dr. Rollins plans to continue his volunteer work and encourages others to do the same.

“There are 80 different churches in Montgomery County, and they all go on missions,” Dr. Rollins said. “Talking to community leaders, the health department, local food coalitions and other organizations is a great way to get involved.”

The great oudoorsman

When not helping others, Dr. Rollins enjoys managing his 800-acre farm with his wife and their dog. He often takes their furry companion with him on hunting trips.

“My biggest passion outside of work and service is hunting,” Dr. Rollins said. “I’ve trained my dog to help me on duck, deer and turkey hunts.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the Spring 2019 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.

Going Swimmingly

Going Swimmingly

Aquatic therapy can provide benefits for patients they may not receive on solid ground.

For patients with arthritis, fibromyalgia or other health concerns that can make exercise difficult, aquatic therapy provides an opportunity to strengthen their bodies without the added pressure of gravity.

“The water’s buoyancy takes weight off the person, so they are able to move more freely to exercise, ” explained Kerry Lucas, PT, DPT, at Saint Joseph Park Physical Therapy. “The buoyancy also reduces pressure on the patient’s joints.”

Buoyancy does not equal less effective exercise, however. The water provides resistance, which helps patients strengthen their muscles while performing therapy. Patients work one on one with their therapist, and the benefits can be seen in and out of the water.

“I had one patient with arthritis so severe, she was unable to stand upright to walk,” Lucas said. “When we began working in the pool, she had much better posture. She was able to exercise, and now, she is much more mobile at home.”

Aquatic therapy classes are available at two locations: C.M. Gatton Beaumont YMCA and Legacy Reserve at Fritz Farm.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2019 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.

‘There’s a Breaking Point’ – Couple Finds Life is Better after Weight Loss Surgery

Steve and Nashia Fife

When Steven and Nashia Fife met while serving in the military, they were very much the outdoorsy types. They later took their children to all the sites, hiking their way through nature.

At some point, that changed.

“We were watching nature documentaries instead of going out into the woods,” Steven said.

That wasn’t the only thing that changed. On a family trip to Disney World, Steven noticed his feet were swollen. Nashia said they’d have to go back to the hotel to rest and change clothes because the walking and the heat really got to them.

Over the years, the 10-15 pound weight gain annually took its toll. “It just felt gross,” Nashia said. “I didn’t like the way I looked, the way I felt.”

“There’s a breaking point,” Steven chimes in. “You realize, ‘I have to fix this.’”

The couple had tried “so many bad diets,” and while they may have worked short-term, the weight “comes back with a vengeance,” Steven said.

Nashia talked with a friend who had weight loss surgery and had lost a significant amount of weight. “The more I talked to her, the more I realized this was possible and might be what I needed,” she said.

She researched all the centers in Kentucky and landed on Saint Joseph East. “The Bariatric Center of Excellence was a real selling point,” Steven said.

The couple scheduled a seminar and did as much research as possible. The seminar answered a lot of questions for them and weight loss surgery went from vague concept to a point that they realized, “We can really do this.”

Through the lengthy pre-op period, the Fifes realized they needed to change a few bad habits. One of them was giving up soda, which, Nashia said, boosted her confidence. “I thought, if I can give up soda, surgery is going to be a breeze,” she said. For his part, Steven admitted never thinking surgery was going to be a breeze.

Nashia went first. Her surgery was Dec. 21, 2017. Steven asked if she really wanted to have the surgery right before Christmas. “She said, ‘that’s old thinking that I have to put this off because of food,” Steven said.

She spent the night in the hospital and had a few days of discomfort, which she countered by walking. Steven had surgery April 5, 2018. Since their surgeries, Nashia has lost 85 pounds and Steven has lost 120 pounds.

Bariatric surgery patients Steve and Nashia Fife

But the nonscale victories have been just as important and every bit as life-changing. Nashia, an adjunct faculty member at Morehead State University, found the confidence to ask for a full-time teaching assignment. She is now part of the full-time faculty, teaching all the introduction to psychology classes, at Morehead.

“It was a dream come true,” she said. “Everything kind of fell into place.”

Steven defended his master’s thesis this summer and is looking to the future with more confidence. “Once you see you can lose weight, everything else becomes possible,” he said. “This is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.”

The couple has a blog, life love and losing weight, where they share their story. They know from experience that seeing the success of others can serve as a motivation.

“My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner,” Nashia said.

For more information, visit CHI Saint Joseph Health Weight Loss Surgery and learn more about upcoming seminars.

Sleep Disorders Are Dangerous to Overall Health and Wellness

Sleep disorders

More than one-third of adults in Kentucky reported that they don’t get enough sleep. And, up to 50 percent of children in the United States will experience a sleeping problem, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition to impacting a person’s mood and ability to function normally day-to-day, a consistent lack of sleep has been linked to a number of chronic illnesses. Therefore, it’s important to treat any problems with sleeping right away to protect your overall health and wellness.

Common sleep disorders

Sleep disorders involve problems with the quality, timing and amount of sleep a person receives. The most common sleep disorders include:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Insufficient sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Restless leg syndrome

Symptoms of these sleep disorders include snoring and frequent awakening, daytime sleepiness or fatigue, difficulty falling asleep, and increased movement during sleep, respectively.

Many health problems are associated with sleep disorders in adults and children. Researchers have found that those suffering from sleep disorders are at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension and coronary heart disease. They are also at a higher risk for diabetes, obesity and depression.

Sleep disorders in children

In children, sleep disorders have been shown to intensify irritability, behavioral problems, learning disabilities and poor academic performance. Shorter sleep durations can cause harmful metabolic changes, which are associated with excess body weight in children.

Diagnosing and treating sleep disorders in children right away is especially important, as sleep is crucial to a child’s mental and physical development.

Sleep disorder diagnoses and treatment

To diagnose a sleep disorder, a physician may want to observe a patient overnight and monitor for symptoms. In some cases, a diagnosis can be made simply by examining a patient’s medical history and physical health.

Most sleep disorders can be treated with lifestyle changes and other forms of therapy.

A doctor may recommend a device to keep the airway open while sleeping called a CPAP, cognitive behavioral therapy or positional therapy, as well as lifestyle changes like weight loss, wearing an oral or dental appliance, or a variety of other treatments depending on the type and severity of the sleep disorder. In very severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the disorder.

In people of all ages, having a consistent sleep schedule and making changes to your sleep habits can improve your overall sleep health. This can include sleeping in a dark, relaxing environment, abstaining from electronic devices before bedtime, and avoiding large meals and caffeine prior to sleeping.

Sleep is a basic human necessity that is crucial to health and wellness. If you or a loved one are experiencing issues falling asleep or staying asleep, visit CHI Saint Joseph Health – Sleep Care.

Pell Ann Wardrop, MD

Pell Ann Wardrop, MD, FAASM, DAAO-HNS

Dr. Wardrop is with the Sleep Wellness Center at Saint Joseph East.

Weight Loss Surgery Brings New Level of Confidence, Happiness

Laura Pollard

Laura Pollard of Elizabethtown had contemplated weight loss surgery for 10 years or more, but something always stopped her from doing it.

Finally, she convinced herself she was happy. “I thought, ‘I love me. My family loves me. My friends love me,’” she said.

She didn’t have any weight-related health issues, although she did have high blood pressure during her pregnancy. But she reached her breaking point when she could not fasten her bra. “I’m 43 years old. I do not want my kids to have to dress me,” she remembered thinking. “I think I reached the point where I was done with life the way it was.”

Learning about weight loss surgery

That was Christmas time when her weight had reached 355 pounds. She had never been to Flaget Memorial Hospital before, but decided to attend a weight loss surgery seminar there the following March.

Everything fell into place. Her insurance would cover the procedure. The surgeon recommended the gastric sleeve instead of the band, which is what many of her friends had done and most of them haven’t kept the weight off.

She lost 36 pounds between the seminar and her surgery on July 30, 2018. Over the course of the following year, she dropped more than 170 pounds. But the non-scale victories are just as big as the one shown on the scale.

“I’m way more comfortable in my skin,” Pollard said. “I’m more outgoing … just completely way more confident.”

That new level of confidence paid off in an interview for a new job, which she started in March 2019.

“It’s a whole mental game,” she said of carrying the extra pounds. “I knew that, but I don’t think I realized how much pressure I had put on myself. I would find myself looking around to see if I’m the biggest person in the room (before). Now, not only do I not do that, I realize that was unhealthy.

“I can see the changes. I can feel the changes.”

Enjoying the unexpected

She’s a lot more active. She walks two to three miles every day and watches what she eats. She’s able to ride rides at amusement parks. She’s gone hiking. She’d like to go skydiving. When she flew to Mexico with a friend, she didn’t have to have a seat belt extender on the plane.

“There were so many things I didn’t expect,” she said. “I expected the numbers to go down to be able to wear smaller clothes. But my whole outlook has changed.”

She’ll often look at photos of herself and wonder, “how did I ever let myself get there?” While she’s philosophical about the timing – that “everything works out the way it’s supposed to, when it’s supposed to” – she laments, “My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.”

For more information about Weight Loss Surgery, attend an upcoming Weight Loss Surgery seminar at one of our locations.

Vaccines Protect Against Deadly, Preventable Diseases

vaccines protect against deadly, preventable diseases

Vaccines are the safest, proven method of preventing adults and children from contracting a wide variety of potentially deadly diseases. Recently, some parents have decided to delay or refuse vaccinating their children due to misinformation about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. However, research and real-world examples prove that it’s imperative to get vaccinated, for your own health and the health of others you come into contact with on a regular basis.

The recent resurgence of measles in the United States is just one example of how serious the consequences of being unvaccinated against these diseases can be.

Due to a decline in children being vaccinated, more than 1,000 cases of measles have been reported in the U.S. so far this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How does the measles virus spread?

The measles virus spreads through coughing and sneezing. A high fever is the first symptom of the virus, followed by coughing, a runny nose and red eyes. The infected person then develops a rash of tiny, red spots starting at the head and spreading down the body. The virus causes severe illness and can lead to death.

There is no treatment that can cure a patient with an established measles infection and it’s an extremely contagious virus.

It is estimated that up to 90 percent of the people in close proximity to an infected person will also become infected if they have not been vaccinated. The only way to prevent contracting measles is getting the MMR vaccine. 

When a virus invades the body, it attacks and multiplies. This invasion is called an infection, and this infection results in an illness. The immune system must fight off the infection, then antibodies catalog the signs and symptoms of the infection to recognize and fight it in the future.

Vaccines do not cause illnesses, but help the body develop an immunity to the illness by imitating infections. The vaccine trains the body to develop the same responses as it would if the infection were real. This allows the immune system to recognize and fight vaccine-preventable diseases in the future without being exposed to them.

Early vaccination, and staying current with the vaccines, is especially important in children and infants. There are currently vaccines available for children, and people of all ages, to prevent a number of diseases, including diphtheria, hepatitis A and B, influenza, measles, mumps, whooping cough, pneumococcal disease, polio, rubella, tetanus, rotavirus and chickenpox.

Most new parents have never seen the destructive results that vaccine-preventable diseases have on a family or community, which could be a reason why some choose not to have their children vaccinated.

If you or a loved one have not been vaccinated, make an appointment with a physician right away to protect yourself and others from vaccine-preventable diseases.


STEMI alert

Imagine holding your breath underwater. Now imagine that you couldn’t return to the surface. This is similar to what the heart experiences during an ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI).

STEMI is a type of heart attack that prevents a large portion of the heart muscle from receiving blood due to a blocked coronary artery. At a certain point, the lack of blood and oxygen will cause parts of the heart muscle to die.

“The longer the heart is starved for oxygen, the more muscle will be affected by the heart attack,” said Paula Fox, director of heart and vascular care at CHI Saint Joseph Health.

Quick treatment for STEMI to unblock arteries can help prevent lasting damage to the heart and result in better outcomes for patients. That’s why CHI Saint Joseph Health took part in the Regional Systems Accelerator II Project, led by Duke Clinical Research Institute and the American Heart Association.

Minutes matter

As part of the project, CHI Saint Joseph Health implemented a STEMI alert system that helped streamline the process for recognizing and treating STEMI cases. It also required extra training for emergency medical services providers so they could administer care during ambulance rides to the hospital.

Since the system was implemented, the average time for patients to complete treatment has decreased from 78 minutes after arriving at the hospital to only 43 minutes after arriving.

Education initiatives have also helped the community recognize signs of heart attack, the importance of calling an ambulance and how to administer hands-free CPR during emergencies.

To learn more, visit CHI Saint Joseph Health Heart & Vascular Care.

“There’s not a single aspect of life that isn’t better”

At 417 pounds, life was becoming difficult for Chris Rogers of Paris.

“Everyday tasks were becoming a struggle – getting dressed, tying shoes, going out to eat,” he said. “Luckily, I didn’t have too many medical problems.”

But he was uncomfortable, and Rogers could tell the extra weight was interfering with his everyday tasks and he knew it could eventually lead to health problems.

Years ago, he had attended a weight loss surgery seminar but it wasn’t a priority for him.

That changed when Annabelle Leigh Rogers came along. When she was 2, Chris was unable to go on a field trip with her to a pumpkin patch due to having to work.

“One of the things that struck me was that one of the chaperones took my daughter down the slide. If I had gone as a chaperone, I couldn’t have done that because of my weight,” he said. “I decided she would never miss out on something because of me and my weight issues.”

So he attended another seminar at the Center for Weight Loss Surgery at Saint Joseph East and, this time, it was a priority for him.

The team, Rogers says, “gives you every tool you need and the steps to follow to lose weight.”

Rogers after weight loss surgery

He went from 417 pounds at his peak and lost 37 pounds before surgery in June 2018. By June 2019, he had lost 201 pounds.

“Life is amazing,” Chris said. “There’s not a single aspect of life that isn’t better because of my weight loss.”

He rides bicycles with his daughter. They walk. They run. She sits on his shoulders now.

“She’s not missed out on a single thing yet,” he said. “We really enjoy the quality time. We still spend the same amount of time together, but the activities are different.

“It’s a game-changer.”

Everything has changed. When dining out, he and his family are able to sit in a booth again – he was so heavy before, the family had to wait for a table when dining out. He can sit two people to a golf cart. His bowling game is better.

He and wife Emily are looking forward to vacation with Annabelle this year.

“I haven’t been to a theme park in years and I want to ride roller coasters this year,” he said. “I’m excited about going to the beach and being able to walk around the beach.”

At work as a social service aide in Bourbon County, he has more confidence. In fact, he was the 2019 nominee for the Boni M. Frederick Social Services Aide Award for the Northern Bluegrass Service Region.

“My only regret is waiting so long to do it,” Rogers said of weight loss surgery.

He said there was a little pain, but “I recovered super-fast. It’s worth the money. It’s worth the pain.”

For more information, visit CHI Saint Joseph Health Weight Loss Surgery and learn more about upcoming seminars.