Check-up Time: My Oncologist Has Cancer (Part 7)

Selfie with Elizabeth at the St. Lawrence River.

I haven’t posted anything since March about my oncologist/former boss/dear friend, Dr. Marc Hirsh, who was diagnosed 16 months ago with an extremely rare, large cancerous tumor behind his heart. Last month at his 6-month checkup with his Hershey Medical oncologist, Marc and his wife Elizabeth braced themselves for bad news, still clinging to hope that it wouldn’t come.

After all, when Marc was diagnosed in May of last year with a 12-cm neuroendocrine carcinoma of thymus origin, his future looked very bleak. Specialist after specialist shook their heads offering no chance of a cure or even a treatment with any real data to show it might help. They all thought he had very little time to live.

But God had other ideas.

Drum roll, please… CT scan showed NO TUMOR GROWTH! Here’s the actual text Marc sent me the next morning along with my immediate giph response of a dancing elderly woman (which I doubt he truly appreciated):

Obviously Marc was very happy with this news, although he’s not one to react quite as enthusiastically as some of us do.

“I just expected it (the tumor) would have modest growth the way some of these neuroendocrine tumors do,” Marc said in a recent phone conversation. “It still mystifies me with everything I know (about cancer). The way it presented and as sick as I was–everything pointed to an aggressive, rapidly growing tumor.”

Instead, since recovering from the “debulking” surgery (which reduced the mass to 8 cm), Marc has been feeling better. He devised his own treatment plan– radiation, oral chemo and hormone injections–which further shrank the tumor to 6 cm when he finished a year ago.

“I’m feeling good and I really feel stronger these last couple of months,” he said. “It makes me feel really grateful.”

My husband and I spent Labor Day weekend with Marc and Elizabeth at their beach house and we marveled watching him jog at a park and swim in the ocean, activities he couldn’t manage at the beginning of summer.

Image by Oleksandr Pyrohov from Pixabay

But even before he got the good report at Hershey, Marc said he “took a leap of faith” and made some plans for the future by buying a season skiing pass. He and his wife also purchased a small RV and have travel plans to sightsee.

Marc, 70, says he is even enjoying retirement, forced upon him when his diagnosis and poor health necessitated the immediate closure of his 31-year-old solo oncology practice.

“Up until a few months ago I really missed work and felt like a fish out of water, but I’ve kind of adjusted to it,” he said. “I find myself enjoying more leisure time reading, playing music, traveling and (being with) family.”

When I asked Marc how he explains his amazing recovery and the tumor’s stability, I could hear Elizabeth in the background yelling “God! God! God!”

“Yes, God,” Marc chuckled and added, “And I certainly don’t discount all the prayers, letters, support and love that was shown me in the healing process.

“I personally think it’s good to be open about what’s going on (during trials) so people can be supportive,” he added. “You have to be willing for people to help and care about you.”

And as always, the scripture that keeps Marc grounded and “focused on the here and now” is from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:31-34):

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Amen to that.
Whenever I write about Marc, I close with a song by Rich Mullins, his favorite Christian artist: “Where You Are.”

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