Metro Detroit doctor spots cancer from Instagram photo, possibly saving man's life

Posted at 5:27 PM, May 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-18 08:34:29-04

Clicking “like” saved life.

Many of us are glued to social media.

A doctor spotted cancer on 91-year-old man after she saw a photo of him on Instagram.

John Rzeppa isn’t on Instagram but his granddaughter Sarah, who lives in North Carolina, posts photos of him on her page.

Dr. Jennifer Mancuso is one of Sarah's Instagram followers, and a high school acquaintance. 

Mancuso is also a dermatology resident with Henry Ford Health System.

One picture caught her eye.

“Dark brown legion on his forehead that the first thing that came to mind was that he has a pretty large melanoma on his forehead,” she said.

Dr. Mancuso told Sarah to have her grandfather checked out.

Turns out it was cancer.

Linda Renema is John’s daughter.

She said, “It was quite traumatic and I was surprised myself because I see him so often that it changed that quickly.”

Renema tells us they had the lesion looked at a year before and at that time it was much smaller.

Doctors told her it was likely a benign sun spot.

“For years it was just this tiny, small maybe a dime size spot,” Renema said.

This father of two, grandfather of six and great-grandfather of 12 is now recovering.

“All my big kids, my little kids call me ‘Big Poppa,’” Rzeppa said.

The melanoma was caught before becoming deadly and spreading to lymph nodes and internal organs, like the brain and lungs.

“I was so glad that they found out what was wrong and healed it up for me,” Rzeppa said.

Rzeppa has survived two heart attacks and prostate cancer.

He was in the Navy during World War II and was supposed to be in Pearl Harbor but got rerouted to Guam before the attack.

Renema joked, “He does have nine lives!”

Rzeppa attended his granddaughter’s wedding just a few weeks ago.

He is grateful there was an angel on Instagram.

“I thank the Lord for that,” Rzeppa added.