At the age of 59 Art Martin, Class of 1973, now a practicing cardiologist in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was training for an Iron Man race and discovered he might have a medical problem. After completion of the race, he was diagnosed with tonsil cancer. Treatment required three doses of chemotherapy and radiation. However, as a result of the first treatment, he lost his hearing.
Since his early 50s, Art has been a triathlon athlete and at the age of 59 completed a full Iron Man competition. Then his brother taught him to do obstacle races, and he completed three Spartan races and three distance races so he could get his trifecta medal for all Spartan races.
“It was during the end of that season when I started having lymph nodes enlarging in my neck and I thought I must have lymphoma,” he said. “But I went ahead and did my last race of the season before seeing my doctor and checking that out. It turned out to be metastatic cancer for my tonsil, squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsils,” Dr. Martin continued.
Art was off work for five months and went from being an endurance athlete to lying on the couch. He said, “With the hearing loss and ordinary sounds being exaggerated, I could not watch television, my head was too foggy to read, and the music which had been the love of my life was gone; it’s just screechy distortion.”
Since his hearing was gone along with his endurance as a triathlon athlete, he needed to find an activity to keep him going. After much consideration and discussion with his twin brother Alan, he decided not to set any limits on himself and climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, with Alan and their daughters.
It took the climbing party five days to reach the summit. They managed to reach the top on Art’s birthday. “The last night was very challenging. It was not just walking. It was more like rock climbing than hiking,” he said.
Art did not wear his hearing aids during the climb due to climate changes. He said, “Something about being in the natural area of the mountains; it was just calm, cool. Artificial sound is an abomination of natural sound. I got 100 feet from the summit, and I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. It was very, very emotional, very moving, one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life.”
After graduating from Riverside, Art went to Bowling Green University, where he earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1977 with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry and English. He then went to the Ohio State University Medical School and earned an M.D. in 1980. He spent four years at Akron City Hospital (now Summa) doing an internal medicine residency with a year as Chief Resident. It was during his time in Akron he decided he preferred cardiology. He then spent two years at University Hospitals in Cleveland (Case Western Reserve University) doing a cardiology fellowship. Dr. Martin started his practice with the Heart Specialists group in Painesville in 1986. In 2001 he moved to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where he continues as a cardiologist. Art was inducted into the Riverside Hall of Fame in the Alumni Category in 1997.
Art is married to Tammy and has three daughters, Lindsey, Alexandra, and Corisa. Art was accompanied by Corisa and by Alan and his daughter on the trip to Africa.
As a result of his own experience with cancer, the doctor has had more empathy with all of his patients. He said his patients are what help him to continue going on in life.
Now 62 years old, Art has been cancer free for almost three years. When asked if he would climb to the top of a mountain again, he said he would play it by ear.