After a three-year battle with prostate cancer, avid outdoorsman and Louisiana native John Brumfield is back to doing what he loves most. A blessing made possible, he says, thanks to his care team at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center.
Like many people born and raised in the Bayou State, Baton Rouge resident John Brumfield is a passionate outdoorsman. He learned to hunt and fish at an early age, claiming his first buck at age fifteen–the antlers of which he still proudly displays. Even today, at age seventy-two, the retired process technician deer hunts throughout the fall and early winter, beginning the season by sowing food plots with rye grass and feed, then spending as much time as possible behind the sights of his rifle. The Brumfields’ freezer stays stocked with the spoils of John’s hunting trips, namely luscious cuts of venison and wild hog, along with smoked deer sausage.
Living an active lifestyle has always been a priority for John and his spouse of fifty-one years, Charlene. So, when John was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018, it was important to him and Charlene to stay close to home for John’s treatment to ensure the energetic father and grandfather could continue doing the things he loves most.
John ultimately made the decision to undergo treatment at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center in Baton Rouge, undergoing surgery in 2018, and later radiation therapy in 2020.
“It is such a nice Cancer Center with the friendliest people,” John says. “The treatments went smoothly, and Dr. Charles Wood, my radiation oncologist, was great.”
John tolerated treatment like a champ. He was given no restrictions, and was able to maintain his routine activities,” said Dr. Wood. “Radiotherapy targeting precision has advanced significantly over the years, and in the case of patients like John, days often can feel like ‘business as usual,’ even in the midst of radiation. Keeping active is something we encourage, and for some patients, we might even suggest they begin exercising during treatment, as this can help preserve and increase energy levels.”
According to Wood, John received Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT), potentially allowing for higher radiation doses to the cancerous area and less impact to healthy tissue. In addition, John, just as every patient at the Cancer Center, was supported by a nutritionist, who provides dietary guidance depending on their needs.
John experienced little interruption in getting back to his favorite hobbies, he says. Hunting keeps him busy throughout the fall, but it’s not his only pastime; John is also an avid gardener. Taking full advantage of Louisiana’s nearly year-round growing season and warm climate, John plants fresh vegetables in their backyard garden in both fall and spring. Not only does the rewarding hobby provide the Brumfields with a constant supply of fresh, healthy food, but it’s a great way to get outside and keep moving, too.
Aside from his love of the outdoors and avid green thumb, John also has a keen artistic side. While the Brumfields’ now-adult sons were growing up, John picked up woodworking from a friend, learning to carve detailed figures out of salvaged cypress. For years, he has collected remnants of cypress found on his outdoor jaunts, taking home as much as he could carry to prepare for carving.
“You start with a really sharp knife and you just start small,” John says. “The more you do it, the better you get at it.”
John’s specialty is making Christmas-themed figurines, which he gives as gifts to friends and family. He is especially fond of whittling different versions of St. Nick, along with Christmas trees and variations of crosses.
“He’s given every grandchild a Santa face,” Charlene says. “He gives away everything he makes. It’s his love language.”
For John, cancer might have been a bump in the road, but it hasn’t slowed him down. He continues to return to Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center for check-ups, greeting his care team with a big smile, and maybe a homespun tale of his latest adventure.
Last year, John and Charlene celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary, marking the milestone with a road trip to Alabama to enjoy the beautiful estate at Bellingrath Gardens and Dauphine Island.
“We’ve always been big travelers,” Charlene says. “We have a lot of fun together.”