If you met Jay Sluder on the golf course or the ski hill, you’d be struck by the active 59 year old’s energy and friendly demeanor. What you wouldn’t guess is that he is a cancer survivor who beat the odds twice in the past 24 years.
The first incident of cancer appeared in the fall of 1989 while Sluder, an electrician, was wiring a vacation home in Island Park.
“My left shoulder was weak, and before the job was done it collapsed,” he recounted.
An acquaintance who was a doctor of orthopedics with experience in oncology recognized the previously undetected lump on Jay’s shoulder to be osteogenic sarcoma. By December, he was admitted to the hospital at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City to have the mass removed. Within a month, he started an experimental protocol of drugs and chemotherapy. At the time, osteogenic sarcoma only had a 2 percent survival rate.
“We didn’t know that then,” says Sluder’s wife, Sheryl. “But the survival rate didn’t matter. Recovery was the only option we ever considered.”
After spending a year in and out of the hospital for rounds of chemotherapy treatment, Sluder was pronounced cancer-free.
In 2008, however, a routine test for prostate-specific antigen levels (PSA) came back elevated, indicating prostate cancer. Because of his age and previous bout with the disease, Sluder opted for surgery without treatment.
“If I had the radiation seeds implanted and they didn’t work, then surgery wouldn’t be an option later,” he explains.
December of 2008 was a replay of December 1989, with Jay undergoing another surgery. Like the one before it, this operation was successful.
Sheryl remembers: “The doctor came out to tell me it had gone well and he asked me if I realized the previous cancer only had a 2 percent survival rate at the time. I told him we’d found out since then, but I said, ‘Here it is Dr. Norman: that had a 2 percent survival rate, prostate cancer has a 98 percent survival rate — he’s 100 percent.'”
The Sluders’ sense of humor together with a stellar support group is what Jay credits with the score being Sluder-2, cancer-0.
“The doctors, the nurses, my friends — everyone around me made it possible, everyone here,” Jay says as he points around the room, indicating his wife along with family photos.
“There were people ahead of me and behind me in that experimental treatment group in 1990 who didn’t make it. This is why I’m here.”
That, and the lure of summertime camping, the annual 4th of July golf tournament plus another season spent on the Idaho ski hills he loves.