Coming Full Circle at his Trusted Cancer Center
I love the Cancer Center. I think it’s the best one in the country. It was no question.Michael Marcroft
In late Fall, 2014, Michael Marcroft was scheduled for an annual physical with Patrick Francis, MD at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Dr. Francis told Marcroft about a new screening program, headed by William Black, MD that used low-dose CT scans for early detection of lung cancer. “I have a horrendous smoking history” said Marcroft. “I used to smoke a lot. Based on my age and my smoking history, I was eligible for the trial. I was already familiar with the hospital because of my volunteering and being here with my wives, so I figured, ‘why not’? That’s when they found the nodule in my lung.”
Marcroft was told that that there was a 97% chance that the nodule was nothing, and 3% chance that it was cancerous. Dr. Black rescanned three months later to see if there was any change. Dr. Francis called to tell Marcroft that the nodule had grown, and that his odds had flipped. Marcroft now faced with 97% certainty that this was lung cancer. Dr. Black had already added Marcroft’s name to a weekly chest tumor board at the Cancer Center, where experts in each field of cancer treatment come together to discuss each new patient case. The board decided that the only way to test the nodule would be to remove it surgically. In January, 2015, the nodule and one lymph node removed from Marcroft’s lung were confirmed cancerous.
Marcroft’s decision about where to receive treatment for his own cancer was not difficult. “I like Dartmouth-Hitchcock and I love the Cancer Center. I think it’s the best one in the country. It was no question. I asked for Dr. [Konstantin] Dragnev. He was my first wife’s oncologist and I really liked him. He said the only way to cure my cancer was to use the biggest hammer they had: twelve weeks of chemotherapy, followed by twenty-five sessions of radiation, and then extensive monitoring every three months including regular chest X-rays and scans.”
Surgery was tough to recover from, especially the chest tube that Marcroft had. “You just can’t get comfortable. I worked very hard. They said I had to walk around the nurses’ station every day. Getting rid of that chest tube was my motivation for walking. I lost 20% of my lung capacity in surgery. It was harder to do everything with less air but I knew that could be improved with exercise.”
Chemotherapy also proved to be very difficult for Marcroft. “I went through it with all three of my wives, but I was on the other side, trying to be supportive and encouraging. Going through it yourself is a learning experience. My supporters tried to cheer me on by saying ‘Only two more to go…’ and that’s the last thing I wanted to hear.” Marcroft decided that he couldn’t endure the last chemotherapy infusion. “My current wife told me, ‘it’s up to you, but if you don’t finish and the cancer comes back and kills you, keep in mind that when you get to the Pearly Gates, you’ll have two wives waiting for you who will know that you dropped out when you told them to finish theirs!’ …I did the last infusion.”
Marcroft recently passed his two-year mark, cancer-free. “Dr. Dragnev told me with a smile on his face. When he has a big smile on his face, I have a big smile on mine!” He has grown tremendously in his faith. “You can’t do this alone. I don’t care how tough you are, you can’t do this alone.” He also realized how important counseling is. “When you get past cancer treatments and are just in the monitoring phase, fear creeps into your head. Every time you cough or get an ache or pain you automatically default to cancer; It can take control of your life. It took me over a year to realize I needed counseling.” Marcroft finally admitted to Dr. Francis that he was struggling emotionally, and was referred to counseling to help his mind heal.
“If there’s one thing I could say to the staff at the Cancer Center, it’s ‘thank you.’ When you walk in, you have these fears, you’re scared, you’re not sure what’s going on but you’re also afraid to be told what’s going on; everyone was so friendly and made me comfortable. They’re just wonderful people. I live in Florida six months out of the year and have a different primary care doctor down there. I already told him, if anyone so much as breathes the ‘C’ word, we’ll be on the first plane back to Dartmouth.” Coming full circle and with a new perspective as a survivor, Marcroft continues his volunteer work at the Cancer Center, most recently by involving himself with the largest annual fundraiser, The Prouty.