Turkey Valley teenager overcomes skin cancer.

William Kuehner and his parents.
Teenager William Kuehner receives care for skin cancer at Winneshiek Medical Center.

Not even skin cancer can slow him down

Turkey Valley student, William Kuehner, is in everything. He is one of those teenagers who flies through the house for a bite to eat between track and jazz band practice, and then is on his way to evening meetings with a backhanded wave to his parents. He is not about to let anything slow him down, especially an unexpected diagnosis of melanoma.

“William had a small mole on his back with a halo-like ring around it,” says his mother, Bonnie. “His dad and I were concerned, and friends recommended we see Diane Ernst at Winneshiek Medical Center Clinic.” Diane is a certified nurse practitioner at Winneshiek Medical Center who specializes in pediatric dermatology. She treats patients under age 22 for common pediatric conditions such as acne, warts, eczema, moles, rashes, and skin cancer detection.

“Diane examined the mole and also noticed two other suspicious spots on his back. She recommended we have all three removed and tested for cancerous cells,” says Bonnie.

When the test results returned, Diane initially didn’t call the Kuehners; her first contact was with colleagues at Mayo Clinic-Rochester. “In the most basic terms, skin cancer, or melanoma, is a disease in which malignant cancer cells are found in the outer or upper layers of your skin. Testing showed William had two different types of skin cancer, and not types that generally affect children. It was something we had to move on, and I wanted everything set when the Kuehners found out,” says Diane.

Learning their son’s diagnosis motivated the family to “just take care of it,” which they did less than one week later. “I was awake for the surgery at Mayo Clinic,” says William, “and was telling the surgeons my life story as they removed two diamond-shaped pieces of skin from my back.”

William only returns for check-ups every three months as follow-up. Since it was detected early enough, he was able to avoid radiation and chemotherapy altogether. Bonnie says, “We alternate appointments between our dermatologist at Mayo and Diane in Decorah. Thankfully, Diane acted on the side of caution – one of the moles she discovered was so small and faint it was hard to see even after she pointed it out to us. I have complete faith in Diane, and I am comforted to know she continues to be a part of William’s care.”

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