Wade Whitsel knows what it’s like to receive that phone call.
“It’s pretty mind-boggling,” he says.
Over the last 10 months, the 50-year-old resident of Rosalie, Nebraska, has flashed from ominous test results to a biopsy to that call confirming an aggressive form of prostate cancer.
A radical prostatectomy in May gave way to seven weeks of radiation. While treatment beat back the cancer, Whitsel says, another obstacle loomed: “My doctor told me my weight could be a detriment to my recovery.”
At the time, Whitsel weighed 310 pounds and wrestled with high blood pressure and diabetes. Repeated attempts at weight loss brought little success. This time, he had an innovative advocate in his corner – the Wellframe® app, a comprehensive health management tool that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE) makes available to its members free of charge.
“I was apprehensive,” Whitsel says, “but what did I have to lose?”
BCBSNE assigned a nurse care manager to Whitsel and together they set wellness goals and communicated regularly through the in-app chat feature.
The connection gave Whitsel the accountability he needed. “I didn’t want to disappoint the nurse,” he says. “There is a genuineness as you’re communicating. You can really sense the compassion and excitement as you’re making progress.”
The HIPAA-secure Wellframe® app includes daily to-dos, customized reminders for medications and doctor appointments and a resource library – all aimed at increasing member engagement and improving health outcomes.
“The culture of communication has changed, and we (BCBSNE’s Care Management team) needed to move forward to meet our members where they are. And these days they are with their phones,” says Norine Domenge, RN, MSN, BCBSNE’s director of Nurse Care Management, Appeals & Clinical Claim Review.
Whitsel has shed 45 pounds so far. Backed by his Wellframe® support network and his own determination to succeed, he’s made common-sense lifestyle changes: more walking and some running; less red meat and more chicken and fish; and regular calorie tracking. At 265 pounds, Whitsel no longer needs medication to control his diabetes.
“My life has changed,” he says.
This isn’t the first time he has committed to a dramatic new direction. In his late 30s, he went back to school and transitioned from a career in trucking to education. Whitsel currently teaches elementary special education and middle school social studies in Emerson, Nebraska.
He believes he owes it to his students and to his wife, two children and two grandchildren to be fearless about healthier living.
“Living an unhealthy lifestyle is a selfish way to live,” he says. “It’s not about me. It’s about the people around me that I love and that are dependent on me. It’s about my students; it’s about my colleagues; it’s about other people in your life.”
In remission now, he’s looking forward to hitting that five-year mark and receiving another mind-boggling phone call – the one where he is officially declared cancer-free.
“I’m not going to let cancer win.”