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The Beauty of Collaboration - Dave Clayton


Apr, 2019

Physicians: Edmund Paloyan, MD 

Dave Clayton of St. Joseph had a lot to celebrate on his 60th birthday. That night, surrounded by family and friends, there was one group in particular he wanted to acknowledge: the care team that oversees his cancer treatment.

An avid triathlete and runner, Dave began to notice he was coughing an unusual amount when he trained. As a longtime patient of Spectrum Health Lakeland, he turned to his primary care provider Bruce Jones, MD for a check-up. That’s when Dr. Jones discovered two masses on his lower gastrointestinal joint. The cancer was stage IV.

As part of his treatment plan, Dave undergoes chemotherapy at the Marie Yeager Cancer Center where oncologist Edmund Paloyan, MD and his team oversee his care. Dave still exercises five to six times a week, running or biking. He even teaches spin class with a chemo therapy bag.

“I seek out medical staff that allow me to run,” said Dave. “Not the ones who tell me I can’t or shouldn’t. Dr. Paloyan relates well to what I do and understands my desire to keep going. He’s very supportive.”

It was this collaborative spirit between patient and provider that Dave sought to acknowledge in a special way. So for his 60th birthday party, he and his wife Lynne hatched a plan.

The idea was inspired in part by Lynne’s work as executive director at Water Street Glassworks, a studio for glass and metal arts. During Dave’s birthday party, guests were invited to choose a piece of glass from a variety of colors and shapes.

“Everyone was there—family and friends from many different circles, including my fellow marathon runners and even Dr. Paloyan,” said Dave.

multi-colored vaseOnce everyone had contributed a piece, the glass was heated and formed into a vase, each piece symbolizing the many members of a care team who work together for the benefit of a cancer patient. Dave and Lynne donated the piece of art to the cancer center, where it now stands on display as a permanent reminder of the beauty of collaboration.

Dave and Lynne have also been instrumental in supporting the Marie Yeager Cancer Center through Cardea Beads, a program which allows cancer patients to select a handmade glass bead each time they come in for a treatment. Once their cancer journey is complete, patients can turn the collected beads into jewelry or keychain. The beads are made by volunteers, including cancer care staff.

“To have that extra affirmation of a patient’s strength in a way that everyone, including staff, can participate in is very special,” shared Lynne.

While Dave and Lynne have made a positive impact on the cancer center, Dave works to minimize the negative aspects of cancer on his active lifestyle. His goal is to complete a 60-mile run this year in honor of his 60th birthday, and he continues to bike and run several times a week. He doesn’t have any plans to slow down, not even for a cancer diagnosis.

Learn more about the story behind Cardea Beads at Marie Yeager Cancer Center in this video interview


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