Blake Hastings went into the clinic for an MRI of his foot for what he was sure was a broken bone. But sitting in the exam room alone, the then-37-year-old received the news he never expected to get: he had cancer. It was likely Ewing sarcoma, a type of cancer of the bones or the soft tissue around them.
Blake immediately started Googling – “which was the worst thing I could have done,” he says. He saw one number he couldn’t shake: a 50% chance of survival. He couldn’t fathom how he could possibly break the news to his wife, Carey, or their four children.
A family friend at his diagnosing clinic made a call that would change Blake’s life. Six hours later, Blake and Carey met with M Health Fairview orthopedic surgeon Denis Clohisy, M.D., a member of the renowned Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota.
At M Health Fairview, Clohisy, medical oncologist Keith Skubitz, M.D., and their colleagues drew up a treatment plan for Blake that would entail 14 rounds of chemotherapy at home – delivered through a combination of inpatient infusions and by a home health nurse – and eventually surgery. Clohisy didn’t want to make an amputation plan just yet, though elsewhere Blake was told that he’d spend every other week in the hospital for a year during chemotherapy and that his leg would likely be amputated below the knee.
“When it comes to Ewing sarcoma, it’s really premature to advise amputation until we’ve seen the effect of the chemotherapy,” Clohisy says. “In most cases, it shrinks the tumor and therefore results in a surgical treatment that’s less debilitating than one might have thought at the beginning.”
Blake spent a grueling nine months in treatment – but at home. For weeks at a time, he’d barely leave his bed. He spent about 15 days in the hospital total.
“It was such a blessing to have him here at home,” Carey says. “The kids didn’t miss a beat. It was a very difficult time, but it could have been so much worse.”
In the end, Blake was able to keep his leg, losing only part of his foot. About six weeks after his treatments had ended, he felt like he was back to “full steam.”
And now, one month short of five years later, the Hastings couldn’t be happier about Blake’s recovery.
“The U of M team really managed the care of the person and the health of the person,” Blake says. “I think the medical care is as important as providing that hope for someone, a family, that there is an end zone.”
Clohisy is pretty pleased, too: “He’s exceeded the expectations that I laid out for him, and that’s completely because of Blake, his support from Carey, and just his inherent motivation and optimism.”
Financial support from the Killebrew-Thompson Memorial Golf Tournament and other donors allows the Masonic Cancer Center to conduct the life-changing research that allows more people like Blake not only to survive but thrive.
“What they’re doing at the U is incredible,” Blake says. “The more dollars that go toward cancer [research], the more lives will be saved. It’s that simple.”
Today the Hastings family is back to life as usual – working, getting the kids to their activities, and going on vacations together. Blake likes to spend his time golfing, skiing, hunting, fishing, and playing basketball – and bragging that he can still beat his kids at any of these activities with only nine toes.