Marie, Tom, Jessica and Lisa
Tom Morgan is a 58 year-old maintenance superintendent, Navy veteran and
former construction worker who was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma
on December 6, 2001. Tom has worked all over the country, from New York
to California, from Florida to Ohio. He wound up working in Tennessee,
just across the border from Bridgeport, Alabama, where he lives with his
wife, Lisa. They live with Lisa's two daughters, Marie Alexandra and
Jessica Corrine, whom Tom has raised and loved as his own. They are an
extremely close family.
FATIGUE AND SHORTNESS OF BREATH LEAD TO SHOCKING DIAGNOSIS
In mid-November 2001, Tom began feeling a little fatigued and noticeably
short of breath. On November 20, Tom consulted with his primary physician,
Dr. Rory Justo, of South Pittsburgh, Tennessee. After examining Tom, Dr.
Justo ordered a CT scan. The CT scan showed that Tom had a collapsed left
lung. Dr. Justo felt that the lung was collapsed due to pneumonia, and
proceeded to perform a thoracentesis, draining two and-one-half liters
of fluid from Tom's pleural cavity. Dr. Justo then referred Tom to
a Chattanooga pulmonologist, Dr. Ginsburgh. Dr. Ginsburgh in turn scheduled
Tom for a December 4 consultation with Dr. Steve Martin ("Not
that Steve Martin", Lisa laughs), a Chattanooga thoracic surgeon.
On Sunday, December 2, Tom's pain grew so severe that he presented
to the Emergency Room at Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
He was admitted that day. On December 4, Dr. Martin met with Tom and then
attempted a thoracoscopy. He could not, however, manage to insert the
thoracoscope through the small incisions made on Tom's left side.
Instead, Dr. Martin made a lengthy incision extending from below the left
shoulder blade to the left side, in order to get an adequate view of the
lungs, perform a biopsy and adhere the lung to the chest wall with talc.
Tom Morgan, post surgery, January 22, 2002
After the surgery, Dr. Martin described to Lisa how healthy Tom was, but
for one thing: he had mesothelioma and six months to live. Lisa was shocked.
Today, she describes the conversation as being similar to a dream; she
went through the motions of talking and listening, but she couldn't
believe that what she was hearing was real. The next day, Dr. Ginsburgh
gave Tom the news, and one day later, December 6, the results of the tests
on the biopsied tissue came back positive, confirming the diagnosis of
malignant pleural mesothelioma. Tom remained hospitalized until December 8.
TUMOR NOT ADVANCED ENOUGH FOR SU5416 TRIAL, OTHER OPTIONS WEIGHED
Dr. Martin referred the Morgans to a Chattanooga oncologist, who recommended
that the Morgans look at ongoing clinical trials at Vanderbilt. The Morgans
learned that Vanderbilt does have an ongoing clinical trial for SU5416 (
http://www.marf.org/marfFrames/sponsoredResearchFrame.htmfor additional information on SU5416 clinical trials); however, Tom would
have to permit his tumor to grow before he could begin treatment with
this angiogenesis inhibitor. The Morgans also consulted with Dr. John
Roberts, who studied under Dr. David Sugarbaker at Brigham and Womens'
Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Roberts recommended an extra-pleural
pneumonectomy (EPP), if there was no lymph node involvement.
Currently, Tom's shortness of breath, weight loss and fatigue have
been accelerating. The talc pleurodesis provided some relief from his
shortness of breath, but he still can't do the things he used to or
wants to do. And he worries that the fluid will return, and he will have
to repeat the cycle of pain-suffocation-relief. Tom is fighting to maintain
his weight of 215 pounds as he tries to stave off the disease and determine
what course of treatment he should take. He is trying to log as much time
at work as possible because he has no idea what the future holds, and
is driven to provide for his family. He and Lisa had always looked forward
to retirement. Tom intended to work until at least the age of 70, not
so much because he loved working, but because he felt duty-bound since
undertaking the responsibility of raising two stepdaughters after his
marriage to Lisa six years ago.
Tom Morgan, January 22, 2002
HE MORGANS HOLD ON TO THEIR DREAMS OF A FUTURE TOGETHER
For her part, Lisa continues to run the Hungry Bear, a luncheon cafe that
she and Tom own in Sewanee, where she tosses up chicken salad sandwiches,
chicken bacon salads and other favorites of the students and professors
at the University of the South. After work, she pores over Tom's treatment
options, trying to find "the one" which will help Tom live the
longest. Some times, the enormity of the evil facing them overwhelms Lisa,
and she breaks down crying. When that blows over, she'll give a little
nervous laugh as she says "sorry", and then get back to her
search for more life.
Tom and Lisa dream of retiring to Lisa's Maine home to put down permanent
roots. They dream of growing old together. Together, they dream of beating
this mesothelioma that has descended like a plague on their lives. We
will keep you posted on the progress of this resolute couple.
*** POSTED FEBRUARY 12, 2002 ***
An Update -- 7/24/02
With Tom's future uncertain coupled with complicated finances, Lisa
finally closed the Hungry Bear in May. Tom and Lisa then visited Tom's
father in Cleveland, Ohio, on May 31. The two men hadn't seen each
other since before Tom's illness, and Tom's weight loss was immediately
and shockingly apparent. He explained to his father that he was sick,
but as Tom puts it, "My father is an older gentleman. I couldn't
explain to him exactly what I'm going through."
On July 23, Tom underwent a PET scan that showed a "fuzzy" picture.
Tom's concern also encompassed pain and inflammation radiating below
his surgical scar and in his back around his rib cage. It is a dull, steady
pain that flares up dramatically from time to time, and never completely
abates. During the consultation, the doctor indicated to Tom that he believed
the "fuzziness" on the PET scan was due to the inflammation.
Tom will consult with another physician who is based out of Cleveland,
Tennessee, a notable 65 miles from the Morgan homestead. However, the
specialist in hematology/oncology who administers chemotherapy as well
as nutrition therapy, was the only doctor who could meet what Tom perceived
to be "his needs."
Currently, Tom and Lisa are looking after his health by monitoring his
diet. He can no longer enjoy a hearty steak, and he has increased the
proportion of vegetables that comprise his diet. Lisa prepares him some
fish and some chicken, and bakes meals more than she did. Tom avoids all
dairy foods, and olive oil is a staple in preparation.
With more doctors' consultations and therapy looming ahead and unable
to work for weeks, not even Tom and Lisa are certain what they are going
through. We will keep you posted on the progress of this stout and kindly soul.
Mr. Morgan passed away on February 14, 2003