Juggling more than work

Mark Clasby doesn’t let up as he face a third cancer battle
Mar 28, 2014
Mark Clasby is shown with his grandaughter, Megan Lowe.


Mark Clasby, the county’s economic development director, hasn’t been in the office much lately, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been working.

As chairman of the MedWest governing board, Clasby is a key player in helping close the sale of hospital facilities in Haywood, Jackson and Swain counties to Duke Lifepoint Healthcare. He is also the county’s point person in the effort to secure $12 million in state or other funding to help Evergreen Packaging with a required air quality upgrade, has ongoing work improving broadband access in the county and is on the constant lookout to recruit new industry.

But a personal medical development has Clasby managing pain and trying to recover from disappointing health news as he juggles job-related duties that will impact the county for decades.

When he was at a fundraising event for Big Brothers Big Sisters three weeks ago, Clasby collapsed while bowling.

“As I let the ball go, the world just came apart,” he recalled. “The pain was excruciating, and I could hear this big crunch. At first, I thought I dislocated my hip.”

The reality was far worse, however. Clasby, a two-time cancer survivor, learned his renal cancer had come back with a vengeance.

“Going through the x-rays, we found out what the problem was,” he said. “What I did was break the femur because a tumor had eaten through the bone. That’s what broke it. That changed everything and made the problem much bigger than a broken bone.”

Though Clasby had survived both renal and prostate cancer, the doctors concluded the grapefruit-sized tumor found on and removed from his left kidney in 1999 hadn’t been totally encapsulated after all.

He believes a seed from the extremely slow-growing cancer had apparently lingered in his body, though regular follow-up checkups showed no indications.

Clasby recalls his left leg being weak for six to eight weeks before the Asheville bowl-a-thon, but remembers no other symptoms.

At Mission Hospital, the eventual treatment was to put a rod and several pins in the area where the femur broke. Because he only has one functioning kidney, it was crucial tto keep blood loss to a minimum, something Clasby learned the hard way when he went into renal failure during prostate cancer surgery in 2009.

Clasby had high praise for his physician and care at Mission, as well as the follow-up care locally.

“In my work with the hospital, I have a lot of friends who are doctors,” he said with a smile.

The top priority for now is getting his leg stronger and to map out a strategy for tackling the tumor in his leg and lesions found on his spine, rib cage and lung.

An April 10 visit to Duke Medical Center and a renal cancer specialist will help determine the next course of attack.

Meanwhile, Clasby’s days include plenty of physical therapy and plenty of hands-on work shepherding the complicated sale of two separate nonprofit hospital systems now operating as MedWest through a cumbersome and tedious sale process to a forprofit entity.

“I need give them the confidence that I’m OK and we’re OK,” he said, specifically referring to the sale of the MedWest affiliates to Duke LifePoint.  “My role is to get us through this. We’re on the home stretch here, and I will see it through.”


Coming Monday: Clasby will talk about fighting cancer a third time and how his life has been blessed through it all.


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