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Head In The Game


When asked about hobbies, Douglas Marr will tell you he never had time for any of those. He enlisted in the Navy in 1961 -- to do the "buddy thing" with his friend, he recalls. "Except I went to Boston. He went to California, " he laughs. After his time in the Navy, he returned to Glasgow and worked as a mechanic on farm equipment, until the early 1980s. It was then that he went into selling the equipment he'd worked on for so long. He states, "Well, you've got to know what you're selling, if you're going to do a good job." Working long and hard hours, Doug and his brother, Ronnie, made a living selling equipment to farmers in the Glasgow area.


Doug's family life was equally full -- full of joy. Seven years ago, Doug's granddaughter, Candace, now eight, came to live with Doug and his wife, Phyllis, when she was just a year old. Doug says that he has spent his spare time taking care of her the way a grandfather should; he was looking forward to retirement and spending more time with Candace, his grandson Caleb, and the rest of his family.

Doug and his granddaughter, Candace

Doug's troubles began in 1999 when he first began to experience shortness of breath and pleural effusions. Doug met with his physician in Glasgow, who after reviewing his chest films, performed an initial thoracentesis. The effusions returned approximately one year later, when he underwent a second thoracentesis. He underwent a third thoracentesis about six months later, and thereafter one about every two weeks. Although he is not sure of the number, Doug has undergone at least five thoracenteses since 1999. His primary physician referred Doug to a thoracic surgeon in Bowling Green, Kentucky, for an exploratory biopsy. Doug was never advised that the pleural effusions were pre-cancerous or related to asbestos.

On March 28, 2002, the thoracic surgeon performed a right-sided thoracotomy with thoracoscopy, pleural biopsy and talc pleurodesis at Greenview Regional Hospital in Bowling Green. Doug learned that multiple studding of the tumor pervasively covered the right lung. He remained hospitalized with a drainage tube inserted in his side until March 30.

Doug Marr's right lung, post talc pleurodesis March 28, 2002

The report by the pathologists associated with Greenview Regional Hospital states that the biopsied tissue was "diffuse malignant mesothelioma, epithelial type, moderately differentiated." Doug was advised by telephone of the final diagnosis on April 4 and was referred to a Bowling Green oncologist with whom he had a consultation on April 9. Shortly after his diagnosis, Doug fortuitously learned of another mesothelioma patient in Glasgow, Rodney Steenbergen, who gave Doug the benefit of his experience battling mesothelioma. Doug began the dizzying task of sorting out his treatment options, and decided that a good first step would be Dr. Harvey Pass of the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit. Dr. Pass consented to consult with Doug regarding more aggressive treatment options, including surgical removal of the pleura (pleurectomy) or of the pleura, lung, and other tissues (extra-pleural pneumonectomy), and adjuvant chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Before considering Doug for surgery, however, Dr. Pass scheduled Doug to undergo a battery of tests to determine his eligibility for the surgery. Doug has been impressed with the breadth of Dr. Pass' knowledge, as well as his sincere interest in finding a cure.

Doug had a CT scan on April 16, and he is scheduled to undergo a pulmonary function test and another performance test with a cardiologist. Since he fell ill, he has lost 20 pounds.

Caleb, Candace and the Marr Family

Doug and Phyllis are taking the news of his diagnosis as best they can, but he concedes that he has his down days. He has to sleep sitting up to avoid suffocating, and many days find him unable to get out of bed. It's a far cry from the days when he'd just returned from the Navy and he and Phyllis first met at a drive-in restaurant in Glasgow. They were married within a year on July 1, 1966. Phyllis continues to work as a cashier at a grocery store in Glasgow, while Doug worries that they might not be able to pay their bills as he can no longer work. His mood is buoyed by the numerous phone calls of support he receives from everyone -- from family, from friends, from former customers and from neighbors.

Doug will learn the results of his physical tests in the upcoming weeks and whether he can pursue the most aggressive treatments available and his best shot at life. Until then, it's a waiting game. Thinking about a life without mesothelioma, Doug would simply return to what he was doing before. He'd go back to work, provide for his family and take Candace out to the movies or for some ice cream. He just wants to do the things a family man and a devoted grandfather would do.

Our thoughts are with this Navy veteran and family man. We will keep you posted.

*** POSTED APRIL 29, 2002 ***

An Update -- 6/20/02

Doug visited his oncologist on June 12.

After deciding against surgery, Doug met with his oncologist on June 12 who discussed Alimta. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is evaluating results of Phase III trials of Alimta (also known as pemetrexed). The drug is available to mesothelioma patients on a limited, compassionate basis. Doug is investigating what the compassionate care program entails.

Doug's days "aren't so good anymore." He has pain in his side and his back, he coughs, he is clearly short of breath, and he states that he has a pain in his chest that feels like heartburn, but isn't heartburn.

He is taking Oxycodone once or twice a day. He sleeps in a recliner at night, and on a good night can manage only four hours of sleep because of the pain and the difficulty breathing. He wants to be able to sleep a full nine hours again. He wants to return to work. He wants to speak in complete sentences without gasping for air halfway through each. He wants to be healthy enough so that his family won't have to worry about him daily. He wants to live life as he was meant to -- but no longer can. Our thoughts are with this modest and gracious man.

Mr. Marr passed away on February 24, 2003