Louisville man hopes McCain's cancer diagnosis will bring much-needed awareness

The tough fight with glioblastoma

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- One Louisville family is hoping Senator John McCain’s recent cancer diagnosis will bring more awareness to the horrific disease. McCain announced his glioblastoma diagnosis Wednesday night. The primary brain tumor is the most aggressive of its type. It’s something Jeane and Judd Reese know all too well.

Judd Reese and his wife, Jeane Reese, are living day by day.

"We have to enjoy every day and enjoy a day at a time, a day at a time because you never know," Jeane Reese said.

Six months into Judd's gliobastoma diagnosis, every day is a gift.

Judd Reese said, "Living with hope but understanding the reality of this stupid cancer. Understanding that I can't hope it away. I can't worry about it."

Judd was diagnosed in January of this year. He had started feeling clumsy and Jeane wanted him to see a doctor--just a precaution, they thought.

"This poor doctor came out after the CAT scan and he had this white look on his face and he said, "I don’t know how to tell you this but you have a brain tumor," Judd McCain said.

Not only did he have a brain tumor, but it was the most aggressive type.

"Forty-eight hours later I'm having surgery to remove something I don't really understand," Judd Reese said.

Jeane said those hours were terrifying. She found herself with more questions than answers. Since then she said she has learned, in some ways, that's how glioblastoma works right now. Doctors say it quickly takes over the brain and there is no known cure. 

Norton Cancer Institute’s Dr. Renato LaRocca studies the disease. The neuro-oncologist said, "It’s not the kinds that spreads from the brain to the liver, it stays within the brain. The problem is it can grow quickly, it can press on other parts of the brain, which can have devastating clinical consequences."

Judd Reese explained he is easily fatigued and has lost space-awareness on his left side. Since his diagnosis he has also had a stroke--limiting his independence.

Judd's doctors removed 100 percent of the tumor 48-hours after he was diagnosed. But with these tumors, that doesn't solve the problem.

“You can take a garden and you can hoe all of the weeds out and it looks great. But the problem is you can’t get the roots out and glioblastoma is one of those that has massive roots and they're everywhere," Judd Reese explained.

The average life expectancy after diagnosis is 15-months.

"My pocket watch is running," Judd Reese said. "I worry about them. I don't worry about me. Because my time frame is set. I don't know what it is but it’s already set. I feel guilty because I have beautiful girls and a beautiful wife and I'd like to be around a long time to help them.”

Judd had radiation and is undergoing chemotherapy.

There is one other treatment option, but at $21,000 a month it isn't affordable.

So for now, they keep fighting.

"We're going to beat this. We've said that from second one. We’re going to beat this," Jeane Reese said.

Judd agreed with his wife. He said, “Tomorrow the sun will come up. We'll be here. It'll be good."

The Reeses are hopeful McCain’s diagnosis will draw attention to the disease and make people aware. They say the awareness color isn’t pretty, its gray. So for that they say “gray matters."
 

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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