The McNutts: Fighting Cancer a Family Affair

Just over a year ago, Ken McNutt received a prostate cancer diagnosis on his wife Suzanne’s birthday. Married for 51 years, and wanting to hit the 75-year mark, the McNutts took it hard. Especially since the doctor—not affiliated with The Ohio State University— who gave the diagnosis seemed “cold” and “clinical,” talking to the family like they were “a number.”

The McNutts, along with son Michael and daughter-in-law Katy Shaffer, made the decision to seek a second opinion at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute as a family. It was not a difficult decision to make.

The McNutts have had a long relationship with Ohio State. Both are graduates—Ken in agriculture and Suzanne in dental hygiene. They held their wedding reception at Ohio State’s Faculty Club 51 years ago, and Suzanne’s father, John H. Helwig, DVM, was a respected professor of veterinary medicine here for 39 years.

Their interactions with Amir Mortazavi, MD, and the rest of the team at The James have only enhanced their respect for Ohio State. “When we first went in to talk with Dr. Mortazavi, I was not calm,” remembers Suzanne. “But I came out calm.” “He has a wonderful bedside manner,” says Ken, “but he doesn’t sugarcoat things.”

Their son Michael, a public information officer for Columbus Public Health, concurs. “I’ve never been in to see a doctor where you did not feel like they were looking to get out and move on to the next thing. Dr. Mortazavi made us feel welcome, like he cared and was invested.”

The McNutts are also highly impressed by Dr. Mortazavi’s research that takes a crops-to-clinic approach to fighting cancer. As a family, they made the decision to create the Kenneth and Suzanne McNutt Family Fund in Prostate Cancer Research following a tour of Dr. Mortazavi’s lab, a tour that included a locally-grown lunch by a chef who is a also a cancer survivor.

Michael has become a strong advocate for prostate research as well, growing a mustache and raising $2,800 last “Movember”—even winning Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman’s Award of Excellence for his efforts. His wife Katy was so impressed by her father-in-law’s experience that she now works for The James Quality and Patient Safety Department as an administrative assistant.

They are not, Ken insists, millionaires, just hardworking people who are proud to be able to invest in life-saving research. The impact of their gift will be amplified by matching donations from Prudential and MetLife, companies Ken worked for before retiring. Says Ken, “Health is the most important thing, and you don’t have to be a multimillionaire to make an impact. Whatever you can give, give. And tell people why you’re giving to inspire them to give, too.”

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