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URMC / Wilmot Cancer Institute / News & Events / Dialogue Blog / February 2020 / A Lifetime of Love Helps Fairport Couple after Cancer Diagnosis

A Lifetime of Love Helps Fairport Couple after Cancer Diagnosis

Jean and Doug WhitneyWhat’s the secret to a marriage that’s lasted more than 56 years?

Doug Whitney says respect, forgiveness, listening and, most importantly, lots of love. After being diagnosed with glioblastoma in April 2019, love – for each other and from family and friends – has been what’s kept him and his wife Jean going. 

“She’s been very supportive of me, period. All her life, she has,” Doug says of Jean. “I’ve coped as best I could, and our children and grandchildren certainly have been wonderful.”

His children flew in from around the world to be with them and sent cards. They’ve talked together to do what is needed for their parents and even did little things, like hand-making a daily set of inspirational quotes and funny jokes to help Doug through treatment.

“I guess if Jean and I are proud of anything, it’s that kind of spirit that our children and grandchildren have, and love for each other,” Doug says.

In fact, Jean had been visiting one of her children in North Carolina when Doug started not feeling quite right. Buttoning his shirts became challenging and later, he stumbled, rather than walked, around the house. Upon her return home, Jean feared he might be having a stroke, so they called an ambulance right away.

It wasn’t a stroke. It was a brain tumor.

The next morning, they met with George Edward Vates, M.D., Ph.D., who later performed surgery to remove Doug’s tumor.

Along with radiation treatment with radiation oncologist Michael Milano, M.D., Ph.D., Doug had chemotherapy. He took a pill called temozolomide (Temodar) with guidance from his neuro-oncologist, Joy Burke, M.D., until October 2019. That’s when an MRI showed a spot on his brain was getting bigger. He then had the option to enroll on a clinical trial. 

Jean and Doug, 1949“I felt that I have been so fortunate with the treatment that I received at Wilmot and Strong that if I could participate in this and bring some success to somebody else, that was the least I could do,” Doug says.

After starting a different drug through the trial, a December MRI showed his spot had shrunk – a wonderful Christmas and anniversary surprise. The couple married on Dec. 28, 1963, although they’ve known each other since they were children.

Doug hasn’t experienced much as far as side effects, except for some hearing loss due to his tumor’s location on the brain. This has been challenging for the couple – after all, listening is one of the major ingredients to their successful marriage – but a hearing aid has helped. They’ve found other ways to cope with the challenges as well, such as being positive and asking others for help, even though it’s not something they’d normally do.

Jean and DougThey’ve always been independent, but after his diagnosis, Doug decided to retire from a long career as a lawyer, giving the couple more time to spend together and with family.

“It’s a day to day to day to day time and it’s time for us, time together, more than we’ve ever spent in 56 years,” Jean says. “And it’s been fine. It’s been good.”  

Looking at his wife of more than 56 years, Doug can’t help but add, “Don’t ever fall out of love.”

Global Administrator | 2/13/2020

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