John "Jack" Hargraves
Topics in This Section
- Ampullary Cancer
- Anorectal Cancer
- Anal Canal Carcinoma
- Carcinoid Cancer
- Colon Cancer
- Esophageal Cancer
- Gallbladder Cancer
- Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST)
- Liver Cancer (Bile Duct Cancer)
- Neuroendocrine Carcinoma
- Neuroendocrine Cancer of the Spleen
- Sister Mary Joseph's Lymph Node
- Small Bowel Cancer
- Stomach (Gastric) Cancer
When Jack Hargraves had surgery to repair an abdominal hernia in 2002, he got more than he bargained for. Hargraves, who turned 72 in July 2010, was told he had massive tumors that needed immediate attention, although he hadn't experienced a single symptom. Often referred to "jelly belly," this type of cancer fills the abdomen with jelly-like mucin tumors. His doctor referred him to Fox Chase Cancer Center. "If it wasn't for Fox Chase, I'd be out in the graveyard," he said. "I'm sure of that."
A plain-spoken man, Jack isn't the kind of guy who spends time feeling sorry for himself. "I remembered what an old gunny sergeant told me when I was in the marine corps in Camp Lejeune," he recalled. Disappointed about being passed over for corporal, the young marine was down in the dumps. "He just looked at me and said, 'Never quit, never give up.' He was 100 percent right."
Jack brought that positive attitude to his fight against cancer, something that he believes will be life-long. "You take things day by day, and you just gotta' live with it. I'm a firm believer in prayer, and I did a lot of it."
"I found both Dr. Watson and Dr. Engstrom very down to earth."
After talking things over with his brothers and consulting with surgeon, James Watson, MD, FACS, a specialist in gastrointestinal cancer, Jack had his first surgery in early 2003. Paul Engstrom, MD, was his medical oncologist and was responsible for planning his chemotherapy. "I found both Dr. Watson and Dr. Engstrom very down to earth," he said. "I told both of them how I see things. I'm just a passenger on the bus - they were the ones driving it. What they said was what I was going to do."
Jack returned to work earlier than expected.
A strong man who'd never spent a day in the hospital, including the time he fell 28 feet on the job, Jack spent 12 days in the hospital at Fox Chase. "Everybody took really good care of me. Then when I went home, the home cooked meals started coming. I have good friends." Although he was supposed to be out of work for 8 weeks, Jack went back to his job as a New Jersey township building inspector after 5 and a half. "You can't be a couch potato. I'm not the type to sit around. You get rusty."
In his ongoing efforts to control Jack's aggressive abdominal cancer, Dr. Watson and Dr. Engstrom recommended a course of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Jack underwent another surgery to remove more of the tumors. Jack's chemotherapy was unusual in that it was delivered in drains inserted into his abdomen at the time of his surgery. Dr. Engstrom, who oversaw this treatment, told him to move around and lay on each side, or roll from side-to-side to have the chemotherapy bathe as much of his intraperitoneal surface as possible during each 4 to 6 hour treatment.
Through it all, Jack kept his even keel attitude. "The chemo didn't bother me. Even when I had to wear the bag for a while, it wasn't that bad. I bet the guys at my club a beer that I'd be able to stay the longest without going to the bathroom. Of course I won."
Jack has recovered well from his surgeries. He's still working, back to enjoying outdoor activities and volunteering at the Elmer sporting club, where he teaches hunting education.
Although Fox Chase was farther away from his Gloucester City home than other hospitals, Jack wouldn't think of going anywhere else.
"It's been 8 years that I've been seeing the same doctors and nurses taking care of me. They know my name, my program. They work with me to schedule appointments so I can avoid rush hour. Anybody I know who gets cancer, I'd send them to Fox Chase."
He sees both Dr. Watson and Dr. Engstrom twice a year for check ups. Jack follows their recommended regime, and does his part by trying to eat right and stay active. "I'll probably have to have another operation one of these days," he said. "You just have to take things day by day. When you got it, you got it. But thanks to Fox Chase, I'm still standing."