Marlin Beach - Patient Story

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"Words cannot describe how we feel about Fox Chase"

— Marlin Beach

In 2007, for the first time in his life, Marlin Beach had trouble eating. During every meal, food would become stuck in this throat. Instead of seeking medical attention, Marlin secretly hoped it would go away. Fortunately, his wife of 35 years, Bonnie, knew it would not disappear on its own. In the spring of 2008, she finally convinced him to go to the doctor. After several rounds of tests, they learned that Marlin's inability to swallow food properly was caused by a malignant tumor on his esophagus.

"When our friends found out what we were about to deal with, they suggested we take Marlin to Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia," shared Bonnie, who admittedly begged the scheduling nurse to take him right away. "I was so worried because Marlin could not eat or swallow. Suzanne in scheduling was fantastic - she got us right in." The Beaches believe it was because of Suzanne's dedication to her job that Marlin was given a fighting chance to beat esophageal cancer.

Once they arrived at Fox Chase, Marlin and Bonnie met with thoracic surgeons who specialize in minimally invasive surgery. After their first appointment, the Beaches e-mailed some questions to Marlin's doctors. Bonnie recalled that bright and early the following morning, which was a Sunday, they received a call back.

"They answered all of our questions," said Bonnie. "We were floored. We had never heard of a doctor doing that before. Right then and there, we knew that Marlin had to be treated at Fox Chase."

Marlin's initial treatment involved a course of chemotherapy and radiation designed to shrink the tumor so that it could be surgically removed. In July 2008, Marlin began receiving treatment at his local hospital because of the long travel distance to Fox Chase.

"It wasn't easy," admitted Marlin. "But I put my mind to it and decided not to let my treatment get me down." To stay positive and relaxed, Marlin enjoys splitting firewood. He went so far as to get a portable feeding tube so that he could stay mobile and continue to cut wood.

By November, Marlin's doctors determined that he was ready for surgery. They used a minimally invasive technique, called Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS), during which the surgeon uses laparoscopic tools and a camera inserted through tiny incisions. Rather than opening the chest through large incisions, which causes trauma to the chest wall and a much longer recovery, VATS leaves less scarring, pain, bleeding and less risk of infection.

The Beaches were extremely grateful to the ICU nurses, especially Barb, who went out of their way to care for Marlin. "She was kind, compassionate and very precise and particular about her job. Barb and all of the nurses in the ICU and in the operating room are very good at what they do."

Marlin could not believe how good he felt after surgery. "I was up and walking the next day. It was amazing," he said. "The nurses were fantastic." Marlin used a thoracic walker in the hospital to help him walk and speed his recovery process.

Following thoracic surgery, patients often manage multiple tubes and catheters, including oxygen, a chest tube to suction, a bladder catheter or epidural catheter for pain control. The thoracic walker allows the patient to walk while making sure that all tubes and catheters remain connected.

While Marlin was in the hospital, Fox Chase provided Bonnie a place to stay so she could be near her husband. "Because we live quite a distance from the hospital, finding me a comfortable place to stay was just one more way Fox Chase made our experience so easy," said Bonnie.

Marlin was discharged from the hospital after just 8 days. Once home, he had more chemotherapy, but was able to return to work as a heavy equipment operator in February 2009, earlier than expected. "It's not easy work, but I was feeling good enough to return," Marlin admitted.

"Words cannot describe how we feel about Fox Chase," shared Bonnie. "Marlin and I never trusted doctors completely until we met the caregivers at Fox Chase. We recommend Fox Chase to anyone who has a cancer diagnosis." She added, "We can't thank everyone at Fox Chase enough for taking care of Marlin. We are overwhelmed with the care and compassion that Marlin received at Fox Chase. I don't think there are any words that can really describe how we feel. "Thanks to Fox Chase, my cancer is behind me and life is returning to normal," Marlin said.

Marlin and Bonnie grew up in Pottsville, Pennsylvania and met when they were in 8th grade. Today they enjoy spending time with their family, which includes 4 grandsons. Like many Harley Davidson motorcycle fans, their mantra is "Live to Ride. Ride to Live." This experience has given Marlin new meaning to the saying, which he now refers to as "Alive to Ride."

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