By Allison Bell
Mar 22, 2021
Kenny Whipple (far right) stands 6-feet apart with fellow cancer survivors and Raiders fans at the opening game of the Las Vegas Raiders. Copyright 2021 Las Vegas Raiders.
In September of 2018, Kenny’s life changed when he was diagnosed with stage III melanoma.
“It didn’t really sink in. My family and my wife were more upset about it than I was,” Kenny said. “I had a few dark nights, but other than that, I was just trying to get through it all and figure it out. Because I live in Las Vegas, I was looking for better quality of care.”
He started his treatment journey at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake, but thanks to Huntsman’s alliance with Intermountain Healthcare, Kenny was able to eventually receive care at the new Intermountain Cancer Center of St. George – much closer to his home in Las Vegas.
After his initial cancer diagnosis, Kenny traveled to St. George every other week for three months.
“I was happy to do it, too,” he said. For him, the quality of care was worth the trip.
One thing Kenny will always remember about his treatment at the Intermountain facility is the connections he made with doctors and nurses.
“It was very personable. They didn’t make me feel like I was a patient -- it was like I was part of the family,” he said.
Kenny described his doctor, Terence Rhodes, MD, as “awesome” with a great sense of humor that he could relate to. His nurses were “all great” as well.
“They would have a ladies night or weekend in Vegas visiting family and stuff and I would share with them where to go eat,” he said.
Aside from being treated well by doctors and nurses, Kenny also appreciated how quickly he received treatment.
“They make it as easy as possible,” he said. “There’s nothing worse than writing 20 pages of your symptoms over and over again to remind you of what you’re doing. It was nice to get called back and start treatment (quickly).”
On Oct. 25, 2020, Kenny and seven other Intermountain Healthcare cancer survivors had the opportunity to light the Al Davis Memorial Torch at the opening of the Las Vegas Raiders football game.
What made the experience especially unique was the fact that this was done in a completely empty stadium – except for the football players who were warming up on the field. Due to COVID-19, no spectators were allowed.
Kenny remembers the beautiful stadium, seeing Tom Brady warm up in the endzone for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the “swag bag” with a Raiders jersey, beanie, hat and other things. But the most memorable part? Getting to know the other cancer survivors.
“The biggest part was just talking with other people who were going through similar treatments – learning their side effects and what they went through,” he said.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, they weren’t able to stay for the game – though Kenny is hoping for a rain check when things return to normal.
Today, Kenny’s health is doing well. “For the most part, I’m free and clear,” he said, though he continues to monitor things closely with his doctor.
Above all, Kenny hopes that people will learn from his experience that it’s important not to settle for care that might be the most convenient, but lacking quality. Seeking out top-tier medical treatment is literally a question of life and death.
“I talked to a lot of people who asked me why I went to Utah and I said, ‘Because I don’t want to die. And I’m tired of feeling like a number,’” he said. “The last thing you want to do when you’re going through your struggles is to feel (that way).”
Kenny and his family are thrilled that Intermountain Healthcare has recently become a part of the healthcare landscape in Nevada.
“From now on, we’re going to seek out care with an Intermountain Healthcare facility,” Kenny said.