Never give up: Mayhew fights cancer with positive attitude, support

Published 11:30 am Saturday, July 15, 2017

Harold “Skip” Mayhew’s reaction to his cancer diagnosis of Stage 4 lymphoma was not so much frightening as it was challenging.

“The first thing I said was, ‘I’ve got a fight on my hands and I’m going to whup this thing,’” he said, recalling that day in August of last year. Mayhew is this year’s honorary chairman of the Relay for Life of Mower County.

Mayhew has kept his passion for life strong and today, his prognosis is “encouraging,” he said, following five months of chemotherapy.

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“I feel good,” he said. “I don’t have as much strength as I had, or muscle tone — but I can get up and get going, everyday.”

He is back at work as a bailiff for Mower County courts, a retirement job he loves. He is retired from a 37-year career with Hormel Foods Corp. as a livestock buyer, salesman and eventually, as a corporate sales and marketing manager.

He isn’t sure why he opted not to see a doctor right away when he first began to have stomachaches in the spring of 2016.

“I decided to self-diagnose,” he said, with a wry smile. “I thought it was an ulcer,” so he “treated” the condition with antacids. The pain did not fade, he said.

He recalled eating ice cream with his granddaughter and not being able to eat at all, “it just hurt too much.”

“My 11-year-old granddaughter said, ‘You’re going to see the doctor.’”

That doctor was Mayo emergency room physician Dr. David McAlpine, who took some scans, said Mayhew. When Mayhew returned home to await for results, he was surprised when he was called right away “to come right back in … he saw it right away and got me into [Mayo Clinic in] Rochester that same day.”

The cancer encompassed his lungs down through his stomach. He began rounds of chemotherapy, receiving a treatment every three weeks until November 2016.

“It was an aggressive cancer and they took aggressive actions,” he said.

Attitude, faith and having the support of his wife, Carol, and his children made a huge difference in his dealing with the cancer’s impact on his life.

“Carol never left my side” through all visits and treatments, he said.

He is optimistic, he said, that he will beat his cancer. He is part of a Mayo research project that is studying the impact of Omega-3 on the disease. Cancer research — a main focus of Relay for Life — continues to be important. Cancer treatments have improved, he said, although everyone gets frustrated with the lack of a cure.

“There are so many types of cancer,” he said, but he knows that “if I had had this cancer 10 years ago, I wouldn’t be around now. Chemotherapy has improved. I have a dream that someday a cure will be found and it will be found at The Hormel Institute right here in Austin. Such great people, doing great things. Thank God for those who work there.”

He urges those with the disease to keep up the good fight. Strides are being made every day. He has a friend who lived with pancreatic cancer for 21 years — far longer than anyone could have guessed.

“You’re probably stronger than you think you are … but sometimes, being strong is the only option you have,” he said.

He said a positive attitude, support and faith have helped him live a good life.

One more plea, on his part:

“For goodness sake, don’t try to diagnose yourself. If you feel bad, go to the doctor,” he said.