June is Cancer Survivor Month: Y Member Donald DeWitt Proves There is Hope for All

By all accounts, Donald DeWitt is someone who shouldn’t be alive.

“I’m not religious,” he says, “but I can’t deny that I’ve been blessed.”

Donald Dewitt Cancer SurvivorDonald’s journey with cancer began in 2017 after he sought medical care following an auto accident. Though he wasn’t badly hurt, the routine checkup revealed unexpected and devastating news: he had both lung and kidney cancer. Later, doctors discovered cancer in his spine and brain, diagnosing him with metastatic melanoma stage IV. Skin cancer was found twice. This was overwhelming for anyone, but it was especially challenging for Donald, who was the primary caregiver for his wife, a leukemia patient. “For years it felt like I wasn’t allowed to get sick,” he recalls. “Then everything hit at once.”

Driven by his commitment to support his wife, Donald embarked on an intensive treatment journey. His heart condition posed a significant roadblock, but he coordinated with his medical team to undergo a quadruple bypass and lung cancer removal in a single operation. He was prescribed Keytruda to treat the metastatic melanoma, and after 35 treatments, it worked. Although he spent considerable time in and out of the hospital, he eventually achieved remission for all cancers.

Donald faced other significant health challenges, including a 150-minute MRI, coronary heart failure, a 15 mm kidney stone, a D-dimer level of 2.18, and a blood clot in his heart.

Realizing the need to focus on his own health, especially with the risk of heart failure, Donald joined the YMCA. He appreciated the friendly staff and clean gym environment, and began walking on the treadmill four to five times a week. Through consistent exercise, his ejection fraction (EF)—which measures how much blood the heart is pumping—improved dramatically from around 5 to 45. “Someone with an EF of 5 should be dead,” Donald says. “50-70 is normal, and I made an enormous improvement with just one change.”

Despite continuing health challenges and the recent loss of his wife, Donald never gives up. “What I most want people to know is that THERE IS HOPE FOR ALL,” he says. He has come back from a staggering diagnosis and continues to persevere today. We’re gratified that survivors like Donald have made the Y a central part of their journey to better health.