Father/Son Donations Honor Bruno Cancer Center

Dr. Merle Salter, Dr. Sally Salter, Dr. Susan Salter, Austin Blackwell, and John Blackwell
L-R: Dr. Merle Salter, Dr. Sally Salter, Dr. Susan Salter, Austin Blackwell, and John Blackwell

A father/son duo recently expressed gratitude for life-saving treatment rendered to the son at Ascension St. Vincent’s Bruno Cancer Center with separate gifts to Ascension St. Vincent’s Foundation. The donations were directed to the radiation oncology department.

“It was just a token of our appreciation to St. Vincent’s,” said John Blackwell, the father of 42-year-old Austin Blackwell. “My family and I are so thankful for the care he received there, and I don’t think it could have been any better.”

In the spring of 2021, the younger Blackwell began experiencing unusual fatigue and frequent headaches, neither of which had troubled him before. Even more concerning, he was getting worse.

“I’ve basically been one of the healthiest people I know of until this happened,” he said. “Maybe a couple of broken fingers and small sport injuries. But nothing else, not even allergies.”

So, when the usually energetic father of three declined to attend a family graduation celebration, an occasion he would normally not miss, wife Haleigh, a dentist, became insistent.

“You need an MRI,” she said.

Soon an MRI scan was scheduled, and a journey that Blackwell never dreamed of taking began to unfold.

The scan revealed a cancerous mass in his brain (an oligodendroglioma), and Blackwell quickly found himself headed for an operating room.

“Eight days later, I was having brain surgery that involved an ear-to-ear incision and removal of the tumor through my left frontal lobe,” he said. “It was insane.”

Surgery went well, though a tough post-surgical recovery followed. When it came time for cancer treatment, Blackwell had no doubt that Ascension St. Vincent’s Bruno Cancer Center was the place to be. A course of radiation and chemotherapy was subsequently administered under the care of Dr. John Piede and Dr. Susan Salter.

“I was born at St. Vincent’s, and I’ve been connected to the Salter family from the beginning.  The medical care they have provided for the community over the last 50-plus years is remarkable,” Blackwell said. “In my case, Sally, a general surgeon, sat outside the operating room for nine hours with my medical power of attorney to make any needed decisions, Susan put together a complex radiation treatment plan and executed it flawlessly, and even Merle, a radiation oncologist, drove me to chemotherapy. I literally wouldn’t be alive today without the Salter family and St. Vincent’s.”

Two years after treatment, Blackwell reports no visible signs of cancer.

“The surgery got rid of over 79 percent of the cancer, and the chemo and radiation took care of the rest,” he said. “The obvious worry is that it could come back, but right now, I feel great. No medications, no treatments.”

Supporting the mission of Ascension St. Vincent’s Bruno Cancer Center promotes excellence in treating cancer patients.

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