Brian McGarvey

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Lung Cancer Treatment

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Patient Stories

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Brian McGarvey

One month after surgery to remove his right lung, Brian McGarvey escorts his daughter, Amy, to her wedding.

Finding out you will soon be the "father of the bride" should be an exciting time in a man's life. Unfortunately for Brian McGarvey, the timing was bittersweet.

After 35 years of smoking cigarettes, Brian quit in 1999

Just 2 years later, he suffered a bronchial spasm that required emergency care. He was taken by ambulance to one of the area's top community hospitals where a chest x-ray and a bronchoscopy revealed a large mass in his right lung.

"Fox Chase was our first choice for lung surgery and treatment."

Several years earlier, Brian's wife, Nancy, had been treated at Fox Chase Cancer Center for thyroid cancer and breast cancer. She explained, "Fox Chase was our first choice for lung surgery and treatment. We were fortunate to get an appointment right away with Dr. Melvyn Goldberg, Chief of Thoracic Surgery."

While undergoing a second bronchoscopy at Fox Chase, Brian suffered another bronchospasm and spent 4 days in intensive care (ICU) on a ventilator. As soon as Brian stabilized, he went into the operating room for surgery to remove his entire lung. Unexpectedly, the lung tumor had grown through the back of his right lung and was now wrapped around his esophagus making the surgical removal of the lung impossible.

Brian left the operating room with his diseased lung still in place. He began a course of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor. If the chemotherapy was successful in doing its job, the next step was radiation therapy. The ultimate goal was to try surgery again to remove the entire lung.

The chemotherapy worked and Brian began radiation treatment

The radiation therapy that Brian underwent over the next month further reduced the size of the tumor.

"We were once again hopeful as surgery was discussed for a second time," said Brian, whose illness and treatment coincided with preparations for his daughter's wedding in June of 2002.

His daughter's wedding

Nancy explained, "Although her wedding date had been set long before Brian's treatment began, it was a bittersweet time for us with so much happiness and fear coming together that spring."

A narrow window of time for surgery was available following the radiation. It was set for May 29th, exactly one month before his daughter's wedding. Brian's surgeon was cautiously optimistic about the success of the surgery.

Just 6 months after the first attempt to remove his lung, Brian went to the operating room again. His second surgery was successful and without complications.

"When I walked my daughter up the aisle, we both got a standing ovation."

One month later, Brian was at his daughter's wedding. He recalled, "Some of our friends and family had not seen me since my surgery. When I walked my daughter up the aisle, we both got a standing ovation. It was an unbelievable feeling."

"At Fox Chase, everyone's attitude is contagious - it definitely helped me to remain positive and hopeful."

"Everyone at Fox Chase is dedicated to providing the best treatment. The doctors and nurses are fantastic. Despite all that they encounter each day, they remain positive and upbeat. At Fox Chase, everyone's attitude is contagious - it definitely helped me to remain positive and hopeful," said Brian.

An opportunity to help others

For the last 5 years, Brian has worked as a volunteer for RSVP of Montgomery County, a volunteer recruitment, training and placement agency for senior and retired adults. Brian also provides education and support to other cancer patients, survivors and caregivers through The Wellness Community in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

"Being alive and well 6 years after a lung cancer diagnosis is amazing."

"Being alive and well 6 years after a lung cancer diagnosis is amazing. I often think of all the things I would have missed if I weren't here. Being with my family is wonderful - they were extremely supportive during my treatment. But the highlight is being able to see my children become parents and to watch my new grandchildren grow up," Brian concluded.