When Eric Furbee was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer in the spring of 2016, he had no intention of settling for the life-expectancy odds the disease’s standard treatment plans offered, which ranged from three months to a year.
“From online research, I was already aware of these treatments and their limitations,” he explains. “It occurred to me that maybe there was something newer and better in the cancer research pipeline that might provide a longer survival time.”
Searching for an answer
Tapping into that cancer research pipeline proved easier said than done. Furbee identified 38 clinical trials from an online search but knew he might only have the chance to pursue one. Fortunately, an oncologist friend of a family member, familiar with his diagnosis and the cancer research community, contacted a nationally recognized research leader for advice. This doctor recommended a clinical trial in Scottsdale, Arizona. Furbee sought a second opinion from the codirector of a major pancreatic cancer center who strongly urged him to follow up on this recommendation.
Though the trial was 2,000 miles from Furbee’s home, he and his wife, Ruth, booked their plane tickets. On June 1, 2016 they met with the HonorHealth Research Institute (HRI) medical team. After several days of consultations and tests, Furbee was accepted into the trial and, he recalls, “I think for the first time we began to have hope.”
Finding the right care
So far, Furbee has undergone five treatments and participated in three clinical trials, choosing to remain at HRI — even when he could receive an identical treatment closer to home — because he and Ruth were so impressed with the standard of care.
“I see my oncology nurses, my research nurse or nurse navigator, and my nurse practitioner on a weekly basis or more often if the treatment calls for it or if I’m having any problems. I see my doctor at the end of each treatment cycle and in between if needed,” he details. “There are also many other resources that I can draw on as needed such as a dietician, social worker and physical trainer, just to name a few.”
Furbee admits that his path has been far from easy. It required second and third opinions from leading professionals, the time, as well as “the resources and determination,” to uproot his life for treatment and a certain amount of luck. The considerable travel time keeps the Air Force veteran from his long-time hobby of restoring MGBs, a project car he chose, in part, for its sentimental value.
“My first car was an MGB,” he shares. “My wife and I dated in that MGB.”
Furbee has made new friends at HRI and is focusing on other hobbies, such as playing the clarinet, but he’s in the process, he explains, “of defining a new normalcy.”
Still, for Furbee, his wife, his kids and his grandkids, the effort has been more than worth it. “The payoff,” he says, “has been 27 plus months of survival in relatively good health and the opportunity to see and do many things here in Arizona and nearby states that we couldn’t have otherwise done, to celebrate special occasions such as our 50th wedding anniversary, and to spend quality time with my wife and family.”
Emily Gawlak, [email protected]