Patient and donor stories
At VCU Massey Cancer Center, we know cancer is personal. When you or someone you love has cancer, it’s an interruption of life that goes far beyond the physical. Cancer research is personal, too. There’s a reason our scientists and physicians dedicate lifetimes of work to the quest of understanding what causes cancer and how it can be eradicated. That reason is because with every discovery, every breakthrough, every step toward a cure, lives are affected in very personal ways.
If you’ve ever wondered how science is put to work saving lives, we invite you to read some remarkable examples of lives that have been extended, saved and improved as the result of cancer research.
Following a regular screening, Hayes learned that he had early stage prostate cancer. He was presented with the opportunity to participate in a new clinical trial that utilizes a biodegradable balloon inserted next to the prostate that, when inflated, allows for more targeted radiation to the prostate and less damage to the surrounding areas.
Rebecca Spivey has been a cancer survivor longer than she can remember. At the tender age of four, she was diagnosed with a Wilms’ tumor, or nephroblastoma, a cancer of the kidneys primarily affecting children. Treated with radiation therapy, her young body won its battle and Rebecca thrived with no major complications. Thirty-two years later, Rebecca, a stay-at-home mom, was happily enjoying her young family, husband David and two young children, Arlo, 5, and Hazel, 2, when she happened to notice a hard knot on her rib. The knot grew more painful and Rebecca grew concerned.
When William Weber started experiencing painful complications from his colon cancer treatment in April 2010, he and his wife Gwen became focused on finding relief and a higher quality of life. As a registered nurse and founding member of the nursing staff of VCU Massey Cancer Center’s Thomas Palliative Care Unit, Gwen was in a unique position to know exactly who to call. Her firsthand experience working with Massey’s internationally recognized clinicians gave her confidence that the palliative care approach would ease William’s pain and provide a much higher quality of life.
Diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the throat in December 2005, Emerson elected to be treated at Massey after extensively researching his options, including traveling to other top cancer centers and talking with numerous doctors. The more he learned about the challenging nature of his treatment, the more he realized the value of having Massey in his backyard.
“There is nothing like watching your child fight cancer to make you appreciate the value of cancer research." Margie and her husband, Brad, became intimately familiar with the impact of cancer when their daughter was treated at VCU for a neuroblastoma. She survived, but she and her parents were forever impacted by the experience. Twenty years later, Margie was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Reed considered himself a typical 50-year old family man a husband, father of three teenagers and busy salesman when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare form cancer that attacks blood and bone, in September 2007.
Diane Harris Wright
Dianne Harris Wright’s experience at VCU Massey Cancer Center has been personal from the start, eight years ago. After receiving her diagnosis of Stage 3 ovarian cancer from her doctor in the community on the Friday of a holiday weekend, she and her husband, Ken, sprung into action making phone calls to anyone and everyone they know who could help answer their questions.
In March 2008, 69-year old Ida McCutchen was diagnosed with stage III lung cancer. Immediately upon hearing this news, Ida’s family sprung into action. Her daughters Robinette and Tracey and her granddaughter Chalisa knew that, while their strong family was prepared to do whatever it took to battle Ida’s disease, their best weapon was expert cancer care.
When Ray Slabaugh was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma in 2009, he and his wife, Lynn, were prepared to go anywhere to get the best possible treatment. Fortunately, they quickly learned that the best treatment in the country was right in their own backyard, at Massey. Slabaugh’s diagnosis, a rare form of aggressive non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma, was complicated. While confident in the expertise he knew was housed at Massey, Ray was also prepared that the rarity of his case might require more specialized consultation.
“When I learned I had cancer, I knew I couldn’t let it control my life. I had cancer, but cancer didn’t have me. I had to find answers and understand my options,” Terrell Harrigan decided after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Determined to make an informed decision about her treatment, Harrigan and her husband Elliott visited three doctors — and chose Massey as the right place for her.