Third Year of Remission and Still Counting
Gary and Susan Cooper in Alaska. June, 2012
Gary Cooper has always been an active guy with lots of pep and vigor. Born
in 1941 in Pueblo, Colorado, he was the youngest of five siblings and
grew up working on his family’s farm. Gary met his wife Susan when
he moved into the apartment complex she lived in; their courtship consisted
of them playing pranks on one another.
One such prank began when Susan and a friend decided to duct tape Gary
into his apartment. He went duck hunting that day and retaliated by hanging
his bounty on their door; the next morning he found the duck on the floor
of his car, which had been encased in about three years’ worth of
Gary and Susan have been happily married now for 44 years; they have two
children, Lance and Tanya, and two grandchildren, Katelyn and Molly.
Gary’s usual pep and vigor changed to tired and weak in early 2009.
He began experiencing discomfort and swelling in his throat which an x-ray
revealed to be a growth. In order to get to his esophagus, cardiothoracic
surgeon Dr. Dawn Jaroszewski at the Phoenix Campus of Mayo Clinic needed
to collapse his right lung. Dr. Jaroszewski noticed multiple nodules on
the lining surrounding his lung and took biopsy samples for testing. The
growth in Gary’s throat was benign but the biopsy of his lung tissue
was positive for malignant pleural mesothelioma.
Gary andSusan Cooper with their
children, Tanya and Lance at the
Johnson Space Center the day before
Gary and Susan were shocked upon learning of his diagnosis, Gary said he,
“felt like someone had cut me off below the knee, but then I regrouped
and said, you know, I don't care what I got, I’m still here,
I'm going to whip it.” Gary had worked his entire life in the
farming industry as a salesman, and reluctantly retired only when his
health forced him to.
Gary was subsequently referred to Dr. David C. Rice, Associate Professor
of the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery at MD Anderson
Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. They decided on a treatment plan consisting
of chemotherapy followed by surgery. Gary did four monthly sessions of
chemo with oncologist Dr. Helen Ross. In August of 2009, Dr. Rice performed
the pleural decortication surgery which included removing the center lobe
of his right lung.
It has been three years since Gary’s surgery, and his mesothelioma
has remained in full remission. According to Gary, the hardest part of
having mesothelioma is that, “There's a lot of pain involved
and everything, but you learn how to live with that, it's the effect
it has on your home life with your family. That's tough.” He
visits the Arizona Pain Relief Center for pain management which he continues
to experience due to the surgery. His esophagus condition requires ongoing
treatment, which allows for frequent follow-up to monitor for any recurrence
of the mesothelioma.
Gary Cooper, 1974
This past June, Gary and Susan went on a 16 day Alaskan cruise and travelled
from Fairbanks down to Denali National Park, to Juneau and to Ketchikan.
He even caught a 15 pound salmon! They also make regular visits to their
children who both reside in the Northwest.
Gary’s story shows us the importance of early detection and receiving
treatment from doctors who are familiar with mesothelioma and if not for
his throat trouble, it may have been a quite a while longer before his
meso was detected. “I have nothing but good things to say about
my doctors, they have been wonderful, just wonderful.”
*** Posted on October 16, 2012 ***