Diagnosis: Testicular cancer
Treatment: Surgery and chemotherapy
To some, finishing a marathon might seem an impossible goal.
Not for Greg Sim.
The Snoqualmie resident and testicular cancer survivor tackles his races the same way he battled his cancer: by putting one foot in front of the other, taking every mile as it comes, and surrounding himself with a strong support group.
That philosophy is one shared by Greg’s team of cancer specialists at EvergreenHealth.
Over Fourth of July weekend in 2009, Greg, a supervisor for the private ambulance company American Medical Response (AMR), thought he’d pulled a groin muscle.
But his primary care doctor suspected it was something more serious.
An ultrasound confirmed the worst: testicular cancer.
“I could tell by the way the technician and doctor looked at me that something was wrong,” Greg recalls. “They told me I had cancer. And I cried.”
But then he rallied. After surgery to remove his testicle, Greg was referred to medical oncologist Dr. Matthew Lonergan.
“Greg’s cancer had spread, and he had dozens of other tumors sprinkled throughout his abdomen and lungs,” Dr. Lonergan explains. “Some tumors needed chemo, and some needed surgery. So we needed to plan and have Greg understand that the chemo would stop some and not others.”
Dr. Lonergan prescribed a rigorous four-month chemotherapy regimen.
“We had to balance the toxicity of the chemotherapy with the outcome we were after – the cure,” he says.
But he also prepared Greg for the possibility of surgery at their first appointment.
Greg signed on without hesitation. “Everything was extremely clear. After 30-plus years in the medical field, I knew my direction. Surgery was always in the back of my mind.”
Chemotherapy was grueling.
“It was extremely rough on me and my body,” Greg remembers. “It was a very emotional time.”
He was buoyed in part by the consistency and care of his doctors and nurses. “EvergreenHealth did a great job. I had the same nurse every week. Matt [Dr. Lonergan] called me in the evenings.”
Dr. Lonergan admired Greg’s resolve. “Greg is resolute and determined. He knew it was going to be rough, and he just got up and did it. He’s tough.”
In spite of it all, Greg continued to work every day, sometimes it was a reduced shift, working until just before or after his chemo appointments.
“My wife and children supported me at home, and the 400+ AMR employees became my cheering squad,” he shares. “They took me to my treatments. They picked me up. I had all that support at the hospital, at home, and at work.”
Greg had surgery to remove the tumors that had not responded to chemotherapy. As he lay in recovery, he realized it was the weekend of the Seattle Marathon.
“I promised myself I was going to walk the Seattle Marathon the next year,” Greg says, and he did, along with 15 AMR coworkers wearing shirts that said, “Doing it for Greg.” “I wore one that said, ‘I’m Greg,’ and I was patted on the back for 26.2 miles.”
After the race, Greg gave his finisher’s medal to Dr. Lonergan .
The next year, the doctor got his own medal, as he walked the Seattle Marathon with his former patient – continuing to be part of Team Greg Sim.