April 2001

Hugh's EGC Story

My name is Hugh Whittington and this is my story. After celebrating my 35th birthday and completing a week long snow skiing trip to Whistler, Canada, I began to feel pain in my breast behind my nipples. They were sore to the touch, but other than that I didn't have any other symptoms. When my wife and I returned from the ski trip I promised her that I would seek medical attention to determine the problem.

My doctor performed blood work and a physical, and a week later he was perplexed and decided to do a testicular ultrasound. The ultrasound was performed on a Thursday and came back negative, and so for the next step he scheduled a CT scan for the following Friday. The weekend after the ultrasound I was a groomsman in a friends wedding and I started to notice a cough. It got worse as the weekend came to a close. I returned to my job at UPS driving a package car on Monday, and spent all day coughing and getting shorter and shorter of breath.

On Tuesday my managers at UPS told me I would have to reschedule my CT scan on Friday and that all I had was a cough/cold. On my route that day I began to cough up blood and cough every minute of every hour. I noticed I was very weak and found it very difficult to breathe. I finished the day and returned home to find that I had a fever, and I began to feel intense pain in my chest and couldn't get comfortable in any position in bed. Finally around midnight my wife decided she was taking me to the emergency room at the local hospital. My oxygen saturation was way below normal, and I was experiencing cold chills and lots of pain. They performed every test under the book an EKG, Chest X-ray, and more blood work. The X-ray showed both lungs were solid white (they should show up black) and the next step was the CT scan.

After the scan they told me that I had cancer and they would need to perform a biopsy to determine what kind it was. I was diagnosed with extragonadal mediastinal choriocarcinoma, a very aggressive, often terminal type of testicular cancer. My lungs were full of tumors. My prognosis was a 40% chance of survival. They immediately admitted me to the hospital and set me up with my Oncologist who would set in motion the treatment plan.

My Oncologist, Dr Gregory Brouse, is an exceptional person, and I was very lucky to have him as my doctor. He consulted with Dr Bruce Roth, another exceptional doctor, on the treatment protocol for me. Dr Roth is considered to be one of the top experts on testicular cancer in the world and is currently at Vanderbilt University. They used the VIP chemotherapy plan for me, and I began to receive one week of infusion and two weeks off. They repeated this for a total of 4 treatment weeks over a 3 month period. After the 4th treatment week the CT scans still showed some abnormalities in both lungs and a mass in my mediastinum area.

They decided to monitor me monthly with HCG tumor maker blood tests and CT scans. About 2 months later I started to feel intense pain in my neck and a lot of swelling. They did an Ultrasound of my neck and saw that my jugular vein had clotted. The double port in my chest for the infusion of the chemotherapy had caused the clot. I spent a week in the hospital to help break down the clot and began to take large doses of Coumadin, a blood thinner to prevent any further damage till the first of January 2001.

I received monthly blood work, and CT scans during this time showing no significant change in the size of the tumors. At the end of January they performed surgery to remove my double port. Dr Roth had been reviewing all my tests since March of 2000 and after a CT scan in February he decided surgical resection was the next step. I traveled to Vanderbilt University on April the 3rd 2001 for surgery on the 4th. Dr John Roberts, Chief of Thoracic surgery, performed the delicate surgery to remove the final abnormalities from my lungs and the sack around my heart.

I am still recovering from the surgery but can now call myself a cancer survivor. Without all the hard work of my exceptional nurses, doctors and their staff in Monroe, Charlotte, NC and Nashville, TN I wouldn't be able to share my journey back to life with others. I will have blood work and CT scans performed every month for the next year and semiannually for 4 years and annually for the rest of my life. I am now obligated by the cure to help other people fighting their battle with cancer in any and all ways possible. If I can help in any way please e-mail me at HWhitt5286@aol.com.

Yours in cancer survivorship,
Hugh


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