Cancer, arthritic shoulder no match for Eureka fisherman's lust for life

Kevin Ward, a retired tuna boat captain from San Diego, moved to Eureka six years ago to be closer to family after a scary battle with prostate cancer that almost cost him his life.
Five years prior, Kevin was experiencing chronic fatigue following the end of tuna season. He was so tired he often struggled to get out of bed in the morning. He had no idea what was wrong.
He saw his doctor, but it wasn’t until after a couple of missed early diagnoses that doctors finally discovered he had advanced prostate cancer. He was so sick, doctors ordered chemotherapy treatment immediately. Following an early session of chemo, his health took a turn for the worse.

“My port for the chemo became infected,” said Kevin, now 67. “I dropped into a coma, and everyone came in to say their goodbyes.”

Fortunately, Kevin surprised doctors, and his family, when he woke up from his coma.

“I woke up at 2am and nobody was in the room with me,” said Kevin. “I didn’t know where I was.”

After a lengthy convalescence in San Diego that was spearheaded by his brother Larry (who lives in Westhaven), Kevin was ready for a change of scenery. With his brother in Humboldt, Kevin packed his things and headed north. Feeling much better once he arrived, and defying a declaration by doctors that he had two years to live, Kevin returned to being more active and doing the things he loved. Like fishing.

“I feel like I got a second chance,” said Kevin. 

That second chance included taking care of an old sports injury to his right shoulder. Arthritis had robbed Kevin of mobility and strength and if he wanted to continue to be active and take advantage of all the North Coast offers, he wanted to get it fixed. 

That’s when he was referred to Erik McGoldrick, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and shoulder specialist for the Providence Medical Group. However, shortly after an MRI on his shoulder, Kevin was told a tumor was found. His cancer had metastasized.

After studying the imaging, Dr. McGoldrick reached out to Radiation Oncologist Dusten Macdonald, MD, at the Dr. Russel Pardoe Radiation Oncology Center at St. Joseph Hospital to collaborate on a plan of care for Kevin.

When asked about Kevin’s case, Dr. McGoldrick lauded the teamwork it took to care for Kevin.

“This was a great example of coordination of care with radiation oncology after the discovery of a tumor in Kevin’s right shoulder,” said Dr. McGoldrick. “The plan of care for Kevin was unique given his previous and current cancer diagnoses. It was important for Dr. Macdonald and I to collaborate to ensure the best possible outcome for Kevin.”

“The credit is all Dr. McGoldrick’s,” reflected Dr. Macdonald.
According to Dr. Macdonald, Kevin had had two types of shoulder pain at once - some caused by cancer, and some caused by his arthritis. The radiation oncology team treated his shoulder with radiation therapy to relieve the cancer pain, but the main component of his pain was from arthritis.
“Dr. McGoldrick very astutely successfully performed a shoulder replacement that avoided the parts of his shoulder affected by cancer,” said Dr. Macdonald. “We had considered using further radiation therapy, but Dr. McGoldrick’s choice of shoulder replacement technique and the patient's great outcome has made it not necessary. Kudos to Dr. McGoldrick for a very successful surgical intervention that required working around the patient's cancer and cancer treatments.”

“I feel very fortunate to have received the kind of care I did,” said Kevin. “I’ve had basically no pain since the surgery in June. My shoulder feels so good, I want to use it, but Dr. McGoldrick and my physical therapists have told me ‘To slow down’.”

Once he gets clearance, Kevin plans on hitting the rivers on the North Coast to take advantage of his “new” shoulder. In the meantime, he’s been spreading the word about his care at the hospital.

“I’ve talked to a couple of my friends with shoulder issues, and I’ve told them ‘To get it done’. My experience couldn’t have been better.”