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Persistent podiatrist Uncovers Cancer


Steve Nett’s left foot was giving him trouble. It was red, swollen and painful. But no one imagined that his concern was anything serious. That is, until his foot failed to heal normally.

Nett, a Fond du Lac resident, initially ignored the pain in his foot. He figured it would resolve, eventually. When it got worse instead of better, he visited Jonathan Stroebel, DPM, a podiatrist (foot and ankle physician) with the Agnesian Foot Clinic.

Dr. Stroebel examined Nett’s foot and ordered X-rays; the X-rays revealed a break of the first metatarsal, the first joint behind the big toe. Dr. Stroebel told Nett to stay off his foot, to rest it and allow the break to heal, and to return to the office in a few weeks.

“I was off work for eight weeks,” says Nett, a welder by trade. “I went back and Dr. Stroebel said my foot looked better, but I was still in a lot of pain. He took more X-rays. A week later, I went back and he took some more X-rays. He checked the X-rays again and was really studying them.”

The X-rays revealed some suspicious-looking changes, so Dr. Stroebel recommended that Nett undergo additional imaging studies. Neither of them, though, imagined the results: lung cancer, stage four.

“Dr. Stroebel called me that night as soon as he got the results,” Nett says. “He told me I might want to sit down, but I said, ‘Just give it to me.’”

The cancer was tiny, no bigger than the fingernail on a pinky. But it had already spread well beyond the lungs; the break in Nett’s foot was actually caused by cancerous changes in his foot.

Dr. Stroebel recommended an orthopedic oncologist. Nett consulted with a variety of experts and sought a second- and third-opinion before opting for intensive chemotherapy.

During that time, Dr. Stroebel continued to check on Nett. “He made me feel real comfortable. He was somebody I could talk to, somebody I could trust. I knew I could always call him and he would call me back.”

Dr. Stroebel’s extended support of Nett fits his philosophy of care - he cares for the whole patient. “When you’re treating a foot, you’re not just treating a foot. You’re treating the whole person. The feet are the foundation for the person, and without a good foundation, the rest of the structure will start to have issues,” Dr. Stroebel says.

Today - thanks in large part to Dr. Stroebel’s persistence, diligence and support - Steve Nett is cancer-free. “If it weren’t for Dr. Stroebel, I wouldn’t be here today,” Nett says. “Like my wife says, it was a gift from God that I broke my foot.”

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