When visitors to Mission Hope Cancer Center meet the colorful sprays of gladiolus in the reception lobby, they’re experiencing an ongoing gift of gratitude from John Linder.

“I do it as a thank you gift for all those people who made my recovery as great as it has been. I went through a lot of bad times which I worried about, and in Mission Hope I got involved with people who knew what they were doing and brought me to a life I know I can live out and enjoy. I’m very proud to say I found them,” Linder said.

The Orcutt grandfather’s cancer journey began three years ago when a dermatologist spotted an abnormality. Biopsies confirmed squamous cell cancer which was removed.

A year later, Linder awoke to a badly swollen eye.

A tour of doctor’s offices led to the cancer rediscovery and a referral to Mission Hope, where he met Dr. Case Ketting.

Deep biopsies in his right orbital turned up cancer that couldn’t be treated simply with radiation or chemotherapy. 

After 14 hours of surgery to remove the affected cells, the cancer was gone, but so was his right eye.

“My optic nerve would have been ruined by the radiation, so it was best to take it out during surgery,” Linder said.

He also experienced a 50 percent loss in hearing in his right ear, but calmly explained a new hearing aid should make up for the loss.

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Rounds of radiation at Mission Hope wrapped up his treatment.

“As far as I know, I’m free and clear of cancer and very happy for it,” Linder said.

These days retired from gas station, automotive garages and restoration businesses, Linder serves as professional clown to his grandchildren.

“I do full dress clown costume, makeup, hair piece. I make balloon animals, and have more fun than the world can deal with,” he said.

He also enjoys helping his mother-in-law, Diane Barr, get around town on her errands, following NASCAR, and keeping house while his wife, Debbie Lutzow-Linder, wraps up her career in nursing.

At 78, he maintains the family motorhome for short trips to San Simeon, Refugio or El Capitan on Debbie’s days off, and he looks forward to train trips and cruises in coming days.

“I love traveling with my wife, flying around the States to visit relatives. It really makes me happy,” Linder said.

Though he sees the world through one eye now, he sees it fully and thankfully.

“I had excellent experiences with Mission Hope. Dr. Ketting was just extraordinary. He has a bedside manner that’s impeccable. He has knowledge of the world of cancer like you could not find anywhere else, I think. He really has my admiration very much. If I had to do it all again, he’s the only doctor I’d want to deal with, so Mission Hope is my hero,” Linder said.