Saved by a fluke

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 27, 2001

Neighbor: Tony Scott Honorary

Chairman of Relay for Life


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Features Editor

Tony Scott was flying along, feeling good about life and thinking about the years ahead.

He was also chomping on a wad of gum, like a cow chewing a cud, his wife said.

While on an assignment at Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach facility, a co-worker came up behind Scott and gave him a "good ol’ boy" slap on the back, causing him to choke on his chewing gum.

"I choked and then swallowed the gum, but I had a strange feeling in my throat that wouldn’t go away," Scott said. "When I got back home I mentioned it to Mark Griffin (Troy physician). Mark looked at my throat and didn’t see anything, but he had me get some tests run."

To Scott’s horror, the doctors found a tumor the size of a cantaloupe between his spine and sternum.

"Had I not choked on the gum I don’t know when the tumor would have been found," Scott said. "It was just a fluke. – a fortunate fluke."

The tumor was so big that it touched both the sternum and the spine.

"I was told it couldn’t

be removed because it was a mass that had surrounded different organs, veins and arteries in my chest. The only treatment was chemotherapy."

The news hit Scott like a ton of bricks. He sat there hoping it was all a dream and that he would wake up.

"We all have plans, but nothing is promised, I suddenly realized that," he said. "I sat there wondering, ‘What am I going to do?’ I thought about my wife and kids, my family. I was so scared, but I knew what I had to do. I had to have the chemo if I was going to have a chance."

When he went for his first chemotherapy treatment at the Montgomery Cancer Center in February 2000, Scott was more afraid than he had ever been in his life.

"I walked into that big room and saw all these people with IVs in their arms and it was a most frightening experience," he said. "The nurse must have realized how afraid I was. She took me over to a young man from Petrey, Gary Beasley, who was facing the same type cancer. He looked up at me with that big, beautiful smile of his and we talked and he calmed me down. Only then, did they start my chemo treatment."

Scott said he and Beasley have become very good friends.

"Having a friend who knows exactly what you are going through means a lot," Scott said. "Gary gave me strength, courage and hope."

Scott was told he would have to undergo a year of chemotherapy and, again, he didn’t know what he was going to do.

"My wife was working and having to go to Montgomery four to eight times a month could have been a real problem for us, but it never was," Scott

said. "We moved to Troy six years ago and I said if I had to have cancer, I believe it was in God’s plan for me to have it in Troy. The response we got from the community has been unbelievable."

Keith and Terry Watkins had become close friends of the Scotts and Terry

contacted Charlie Norris who made arrangements for people to pick Scott up at his home, take him for treatment and bring him back home.

"Charlie is my hero and I called all those who helped him help me ‘Charlie’s Angels’ because that’s exactly who they are," Scott said. "My friend, Dick Deichmann, and his wife were also very good to take me for treatments. All those who drove me were so kind to sit and wait. Sometimes when I was finished, I wasn’t in very good shape and they would have to help me.

"I am thankful for all of them and for the many prayers that were said on my behalf – in my church and in other churches around the community and the county. Prayers do make a difference. My wife wouldn’t let me get in bed and stay there. She kept me up and going. She wouldn’t Iet me give up. I just can’t say enough about my family who stood by me and cared for me. I love them dearly.

And, my Sikorsky family, here and in Connecticut – they were wonderful and understanding of my situation."

Scott, who is facilities manager at Sikorsky Support Services,

was able to work during his treatments, some days in the office, many days at home.

"That meant a lot to me – to keep working," he said. "I’ll always be grateful for that opportunity."

Chemotherapy isn’t without its side effects and Scott had to be hospitalized several times for problems resulting from the treatments.

"My first career was as a respiratory therapist, so I know a lot about hospitals," Scott said. "I can truthfully say that the care I received at Edge Regional Medical Center was second to none – from ER to the lab to X-ray to all the people on the floor. I couldn’t have asked for better care or more caring professionals. The Edge doctors worked together to treat me. They helped save my life."

Scott completed chemotherapy in March. His cancer is in remission and, if it remains so for two and a half years, the doctor said he will mark him off as cured.

Scott’s prays that will happen.

He now dedicates himself to working for the "cause" that gave him a second chance at life.

"I have not been involved in Relay for Life before, not because I didn’t think it was a worthwhile cause, but because I had spread myself so thin in other areas," he said. "We lost my father-in-law, who was like a father to me, to cancer and I was deeply hurt by that. So, I knew that Relay was important. Now, I know, first hand, how many lives are saved through research. There is a breakthrough every day in some area. Research helped save my life and I am very honored to serve as the honorary chairman of Relay for Life 2001."

Scott said there are many others who have gone through the same ordeal with cancer as he.

"They all would have been great in this position," he said. "And, I’m sure they feel the same way

as I do. If research can add minutes, hours, days or years to our lives we are happy for that. On behalf of all cancer survivors, I want to thank all of those who contribute to Relay for Life for making our lives better. I will participate in the survivors’ walk with honor and a very thankful heart."