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Not many people say the day they met their oncologist to hear about cancer treatment was “extraordinary,” but that’s how Lon McMurtrey describes his. That word could also describe the journey that Lon and his wife, Ranita, would experience over the next couple of years.
Lon gives all the credit for that “extraordinary” day to Dr. Harold Longe and his team on the sixth floor of IU Health Methodist Hospital. With a diagnosis of stage 4 metastatic melanoma that had spread to his lungs, Lon’s prognosis wasn’t good. He and Ranita were anticipating the worst when they drove from their Washington, Ind., home to meet with Dr. Longe in Indianapolis.
“Dr. Longe walks in, looks up from my chart, gives us a big smile, and says, ‘We can’t do surgery; we can’t do chemo; and we can’t do radiation; but I think we can do something with this.’”
Dr. Longe told Lon and Ranita about immunotherapy, and then he led them out of the exam room and down the hall.
“We were the last appointment of the day, so he took us into the hallway and introduced us to everyone,” Lon said. “He gathered everyone around us, kind of like a group hug. They put their hands on us and said, ‘Don’t worry. We’ve got you now.’ It was an extraordinary day.”
Lon’s odds of surviving were 15% for two years. He says he was fully prepared to accept that, go without treatment and just ride his motorcycle. Instead, the immunotherapy shrunk his tumors to the point that they’re nearly gone. He continues to receive immunotherapy every three weeks, but now he receives the treatment at IU Health Bloomington, which Lon and Ranita now call home.
Before Lon got sick and Ranita was nearing retirement, the couple had planned to move out west. With Lon’s diagnosis, they decided to stay closer to healthcare and family, so they moved to Bloomington, where they had met as students at Indiana University and where they have friends.
Around the time they moved, in January 2020, their story took another “extraordinary” turn: Ranita felt a lump in her breast. The COVID-19 pandemic created some obstacles to getting tests scheduled, but eventually tests revealed cancer in both breasts.
Surgery was scheduled in July, but on the day of surgery, Ranita woke up feeling a little off. She told the pre-op nurse she felt “fluttery,” but chalked it up to nerves. That feeling turned out to be an atrial flutter caused by a blood clot in her heart. Surgery was canceled and Ranita ended up in cardiac care.
“I was so grateful that nurse was so attentive and took what I said seriously,” said Ranita.
Eventually, the clot passed, and her surgery was rescheduled for October. Unfortunately, Ranita required a second surgery, followed by chemotherapy. While none of it was smooth sailing, Ranita credits her nurse navigator, Jamie Conwell at IU Health Bloomington, with standing by her side. “She called me every two weeks without fail,” said Ranita.
That kind of support is why Lon and Ranita have made a planned gift to the IU Health Foundation, directing in their wills that a part of their estate goes to the Foundation. The amount of the gift will be determined by the size of their estate and other commitments that are drawn from it.
“The healthcare we’ve gotten has been better than we’ve had anywhere else,” said Lon. “With the good care that we’ve gotten, it just made sense. We’re grateful we’re here and grateful for the support as cancer patients.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the advantages of making a planned gift, contact IU Health Foundation Planned Giving Director Marya Jones at 317.962.1891.
If you’d like to invest in the cancer program to help patients like Lon and Ranita through their cancer journey, visit our donation page. When the dropdown window appears, select IU Health Bloomington Hospital as the location and Olcott Center as the beneficiary.