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He Chooses To Cope

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A picture of health, Dr. James Towery was enjoying his retirement in Parrish, Florida with a zest we all wish for. An avid runner, golfer, grandfather to 14 and the leader of the Silver Threads band, his days were full and fun.

After raising five children, which he proudly boasts are all college educated, James and Adeline Towery retired in 1992 and moved from the cold bitter winters of Michigan to the always balmy and warm Florida. The weather in the south allowed him to comfortably continue his running, up to eighteen miles a week, as well as play at least three rounds of golf a week. A ten handicap, James was intent on lowering his average score. He always walked the eighteen holes, all six foot, four inches of him.

One of his most fulfilling pleasures was playing the saxophone with his dance band, The Silver Threads. The Silver Threads had gigs every week and always played to a packed house at venues and events throughout the Bradenton, Florida area. With a lung capacity above the average 70 year old, James could belt out a Woody Herman or Benny Goodman tune with the best of them.

Dr. Towery's dance band - The Silver Threads With Dr. James Towery on Saxophone
In the fall of 2000, James began to experience unusual shortness of breath and some chest pain. He went to his doctor in Bradenton, Florida who took several chest films which revealed fluid in his left chest cavity. A CAT scan was also taken. A thoracentesis was performed where approximately two quarts of fluid were removed. Cytological tests were negative for any malignancy, and Dr. Towery was sent home.

Thirteen days later, the fluid returned, and so did James, to his doctor's office. A second thoracentesis was performed and another two quarts of fluid were removed. Again the cytology was negative. At this time, his doctors wanted to perform a talc pleurodesis, but Dr. Towery was afraid that after the procedure, he would no longer be able to play the sax. James declined the talc procedure.

Approximately five days later, the fluid returned. James underwent a third thoracentesis, this time at the Blake Hospital in Bradenton. This cycle repeated itself for the next several months. Overall, he had seven thoracentesis, three performed at his doctor's office, two at the Blake Hospital and one at the VA Hospital. In all, over twenty-four quarts of fluid were removed from his chest in a little over a four month time period.

Dr. James Towery April 20, 2001
On December 22, after a severe atrial fibrulation, James was rushed to the hospital and underwent a thoracoscopy, talc pleurodesis and another thoracentesis. The pathology was inconclusive, but suspicious for mesothelioma. The tissue specimens were sent to the IMPATH laboratories in New York, which returned a diagnosis of epithelial malignant mesothelioma.

He was not offered any viable treatment options and returned home, taking a 'wait and see' approach.

In late March, Dr. Towery again began to feel a pain in his left side. A chest film revealed that the fluid had returned. During the first week of April, he underwent a second talc procedure and a second thoracoscopy. His doctors then informed him that his mesothelioma was stage IV. Surgery was not an option. Dr. Towery inquired about chemotherapy regimens, but learned that there were not any conventional treatments that would kill or shrink the tumor. He also learned that the toxic drugs would probably make him more ill and weaker, so he thought it prudent to avoid that route.

He watches his diet carefully, juices regularly and drinks flo-essence tea at least three times a day and Chinese green tea once a day. His weight is down to 172 pounds, from his normally rock-solid 210 pounds.

Dr. Towery is keeping a positive mind set and trying his best to pursue the things he's always loved. As recently as April 12, he completed eighteen holes of golf, shooting a 43 on the back nine, although every swing of the club was painful. He is unable to walk the course and therefore rides a golf cart. He experiences shortness of breath walking from the cart to his golf ball. He still plays the saxophone with a huge degree of difficulty and shortness of breath. He has to have his instruments carried to each gig by his band mates - but more often than not, this task is performed by his dear wife Adeline.

We will keep you posted on this determined individual.

*** POSTED MAY 9, 2001 ***

Dr. Towery passed away on December 13, 2001