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Cancer is finding a tough opponent in Ron Sutherland

By Lacy Hilliard
When the very first thing your interviewee does is read himself his Miranda Rights, you know you’re in for an interesting conversation. Ronald Sutherland is a Johnson County native with a big heart and an even bigger sense of humor. Though his battle with leukemia and aggressive melanoma would be enough to make a lesser man weep, Sutherland seems to be at complete ease with his battle for survival and it’s clear that his positivity won’t be easily shadowed.
Sutherland was dealing with chronic fatigue he decided it was time to see his doctor in an attempt to discover a cause for his consistent weariness. His health care provider ran some blood work and the results were devastating. He was quickly diagnosed with leukemia and doctors immediately recommended chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and several more diagnostic tests including a positron emission tomography (PET) scan.
As Ron and his family struggled to understand all of the implications of his Leukemia diagnosis, they would be hit with yet more shocking news. The diagnostic PET scan that Ron underwent shortly after his leukemia diagnosis showed a large mass in his shoulder that doctors quickly identified as an extremely aggressive form of melanoma. Surgery to remove the aggressive tumor was immediately recommended and that’s when Sutherland’s life began to change drastically.
As the Sutherland family stood in disbelief of the double cancer diagnosis, Ron was faced with some difficult decisions. The shoulder surgery compromised Ron’s range of motion and as a result, he was forced to step down from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department where he worked as bailiff. “I really enjoyed my job and the people I worked with. Having to give it up was really hard,” said Ron. Another difficult decision was to cease radiation treatments. Ron and his wife Lynda agreed that at a certain point, the decision to continue with prescribed treatments became a quality of life issue. Ron suffered greatly throughout his rounds of radiation and he made a cognitive decision to enjoy the time he’s been given rather than suffer through it.
It’s clear that Ron’s wife Lynda has been his biggest cheerleader throughout his battle. Her amazement at her husband’s strength is apparent and it seems that even after 22 years of marriage, the couple is still very much in love. Lynda remarked that she has never seen her husband become angry or even upset about his cancer diagnosis and she also went on to say that while her husband was going through radiation treatments, it was difficult to see him so sick because he has always been so strong. When asked how their marriage has survived such trying times, Ron responded with, “I’ve always been told that if you have a lot of healthy flowers growing in your yard, it means you have a good marriage and we definitely have a lot of blooms.”
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.