Hold the Phone!

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Steve Hoyt is a member of YPO and CEO and is the Founder of Hoyt Properties, Inc. in Minneapolis. Steve and his wife, Paula, are generous supporters of Healthnetwork Foundation.

Steve Hoyt squinted in the mirror. That doesn’t look like acne. He made an appointment with his dermatologist who agreed the lump looked strange. She took a biopsy and told Steve the bad news: It looks like cancer. He saw his primary doctor, followed by an oncologist and a radiologist. All of them gave the same grim diagnosis: Lymphoma. At 71, Steve suddenly found himself facing a notoriously rough chemotherapy regimen involving five drugs, followed by radiation. Steve spends winters in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he usually enjoys golfing. Now he began making plans to spend the winter going through cancer treatment.

Second Opinion

Steve and his wife Paula helped form the first-ever CEO couples forum several years ago. At one of the meetings last fall, Steve shared about his diagnosis. Paula and longtime friends in the forum leaned heavily on Steve to get a second opinion. He conceded and made a call to Healthnetwork Foundation, who helped facilitate an appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, not far from Steve’s primary residence in Minneapolis. But as the appointment day drew near, Steve decided to cancel it. Do I really need to do this? he thought. Why use up the insurance company’s money? I have doctors here in Minnesota who are plenty good. It is what it is.

He emailed his Healthnetwork medical coordinator, Ali Fisher, to let her know he would be canceling the appointment, and she added her voice to that of his wife and friends and strongly urged him to keep the appointment. So off to Rochester he went.

Not Lymphoma?

At first, it seemed like Steve’s doubts were justified. He spent the better part of a day at Mayo Clinic and received the same news: Yes, it’s cancer. Dejected and sad, Steve made his way out of the hospital and back to the parking garage. As he was pulling out of the garage, his phone rang. It was the hematologist. “Hold the phone. It’s not lymphoma.”

A pathologist had run more tests and found that Steve did not have cancer. He had a suppressed immune system because of another medication he takes and an out-of-control Epstein-Barr virus. Steve’s head spun. In a second, he had gone from having cancer to a virus, from facing intense chemo to antibody injections with relatively mild side effects.

“I was relieved and surprised,” he says. “I’m very grateful someone behind the scenes in pathology was willing to drill down deeper and figure it out.”

Lesson Learned: Get a Second Opinion

“If not for Healthnetwork I’d be in chemo and radiation right now,” Steve reflected in early March at the time this article was written. “I probably wouldn’t have any hair. I’ve talked to people who’ve been through that regimen and it’s not friendly. I’d be in the middle of it. Instead I’m not. I’m here, enjoying life, still working as hard as I usually do, traveling. It was a real God-send. Lesson learned: get a second opinion. Preferably from a world-class hospital.”