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Mon Health Urology Patient Perseveres through Four Battles with Cancer

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West Virginia native, Steve Hovatter, was just 33-years-old when he learned he might only have eight years to live.

With four children, the youngest a two-year-old daughter, Hovatter feared he wouldn’t even make it to see her attend junior high. That was more than three decades ago.

Now, at age 65, Hovatter spends his days enjoying life with his wife, their 7 children and 17 grandchildren. And for the past 30 years, despite the ups and downs, one constant has remained—Hovatter’s faith in God and his care team at Mon Health, lead by Mon Health Medical Center Urologist Dr. John Battin.

“Without prayers and the grace of God, I would not be here today,” he says. “I have nothing but praise for the whole staff at Mon-—they never make me feel hurried and are always there when I have questions and concerns.”

Hovatter’s medical journey began in 1988 when he was diagnosed with large cell lymphoma in his right hip. At first, his care team, overseen by Mon Health physicians, worried he wouldn’t live to see age 40. And if he were to walk again, it would be with the assistance of a cane.

Miraculously, with the help of chemotherapy and radiation, Hovatter’s cancer entered remission. Six years after his first cancer diagnosis, Hovatter defied odds by getting back to a mobile lifestyle and spending more active, quality time with his children.

Mon Health Urology Patient Perseveres through Four Battles with Cancer
Steve Hovatter (left) talks with Dr. John Battin.

“After my first bout with cancer, I completely changed my life around,” said Hovatter. “Before getting sick, I used to work constantly and only see my kids on Sundays—after cancer, I started coaching their basketball teams and improved who I was, overall, as a person.”

In 2002, Hovatter visited Dr. Battin for the pain he thought was caused by a kidney stone. A series of tests revealed renal cell carcinoma, the most common form of malignant kidney cancer found in adults.

“As strange as it sounds, that kidney stone was a blessing,” said Hovatter. “Doctors explained to me that the type of cancer I had often goes unnoticed because it can be symptomless, so we may have missed it had we not been monitoring the kidney stone.”

Dr. Battin determined there was no time to waste. Within five days, Mon Health surgeons removed the cancerous kidney.

“Dr. Battin is fantastic,” says Hovatter. “From the time I met him, he told me his intentions were to keep me in good health until he retired—and he’s continued to follow through on that promise to this day.”

Eight years later, Hovatter visited Dr. Battin for a regular checkup on his kidneys. During a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test, Dr. Battin discovered elevated levels of proteins in his blood, a common indicator of growing cancer. A biopsy revealed prostate cancer and meant Hovatter would soon require prostate removal surgery.

As he faced his fourth cancer diagnosis, Hovatter says the responsiveness of his care team helped ease his fears and give him peace of mind.

“No matter what, Dr. Battin, as well as all of the doctors and nurses, always reminded me ‘there are no stupid questions,’ says Hovatter. “Any time that I call in with questions, they’re always quick to address my concerns.”

In January 2018, doctors found renal cell carcinoma had spread to Hovatter’s other kidney. In addition to growing cancer, a pre-existing kidney stone let loose and began shutting down his one and only functioning kidney.

“Doctors did everything they could to save the kidney, putting stents in it three separate times to try to get it working right,” said Hovatter. “It worked for a couple of months and then it started to shut down for good—but luckily, Dr. Battin was monitoring it closely and always stayed on top of things.”

Dr. Battin and staff stayed one step ahead by making the decision to remove Hovatter’s second kidney.

Currently, Hovatter frequently visits Fresenius Kidney Care for kidney dialysis and does hemodialysis at home with help from his wife. And while he admits some days are tougher than others, he still manages to keep a positive mindset heading into each new day that he’s granted.

“It’s not all peaches and cream,” said Hovatter. “I have my rough days. But it’s not what you’re given—it’s what you do with what you’re given. And I never intend on giving up.”

To learn more about Mon Health urology-related medical services, visit our website.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Battin, call 304-599-3074.