MARC VASCONCELLOS/THE ENTERPRISE
Bob Morrissey kisses his wife, Tammy, as he returns to work as a narcotics detective in Brockton. Morrissey, 42, of East Bridgewater, was diagnosed last year with cancer of the appendix, a rare and deadly form of the disease.
MARC VASCONCELLOS/THE ENTERPRISE
Morrissey rides his bicycle along Plain Street in Brockton.
By Jessica Scarpati
ENTERPRISE STAFF WRITER
Posted Sep 12, 2008 @ 11:42 PM
Last update Sep 12, 2008 @ 11:59 PM
Even as Bob Morrissey walked through the oncology wing of Tufts Medical Center last year, he didn't worry about cancer.
He worried about giving up pizza.
Morrissey had finally caved in and seen a doctor for his stomach pains, convinced they came from an ulcer - not appendix cancer.
But specialists at the Boston teaching hospital told him tumors had engulfed his appendix and blanketed his abdomen.
"I didn't even think cancer at all. Not even for a moment," said Morrissey, 42, a Brockton police narcotics detective.
A year now since his surgery, Morrissey is back on his beat, biking 9 miles to work from his East Bridgewater home and busting Brockton drug dens.
Doctors believe he is cancer-free.
Morrissey faced one of the rarer, more commonly misdiagnosed - and therefore deadlier - forms of cancer.
He might have found little to feel lucky about this past year.
Yet "lucky" he said he has felt, having arrived at Tufts Medical just two weeks after the hospital gained an abdominal cancer specialist who is an expert in a novel treatment: heated chemotherapy.
"This cancer gets misdiagnosed all the time, and by the time it gets properly diagnosed, it tends to be too late," Morrissey said. "I was fortunate to go in and get properly diagnosed the first time."
Heated chemotherapy is about 20 years old but rarely used in the United States due to its cost, said Dr. Martin D. Goodman, the surgical oncologist who treats Morrissey.
After a surgeon spends eight to 12 hours removing all visible tumor growth, the abdomen is pumped with two liters of high-dose chemotherapy drugs that are heated to 108 degrees Fahrenheit.
The method, sometimes called a "belly bath," essentially washes the organs of cancer for 90 minutes, Goodman said.
"Surgically, I can take everything out that I can see, but I know I'm leaving microscopic disease behind," he said. "In a year from now, it's just going to come right back."
Morrissey had never heard of the procedure before he met Goodman, but said he had no hesitations about bucking convention.
"He said there are other options, but the other options would do nothing," he said. "There were really no decisions to be made."
By the time Morrissey went into surgery on Aug. 15, 2007, the cancer had spread to and was removed from his spleen, organ linings and parts of his colon.
Four months later, he began traditional chemotherapy treatment as a preventative measure.
By January, Morrissey was back among the Brockton Police detectives and continued chemo through May - fighting nausea and fatigue while sniffing out narcotics crimes.
"It was just good to be back to work. I never thought I'd say that," Morrissey said with a laugh. "It becomes what you are."
His most recent CT scan this month showed he was still clear of cancer. His doctor is optimistic the cancer has not come back.
"Could it? Yeah. It could be. Is it something I expect? No," Goodman said. "I expect him to be around a long time."
Meanwhile, the East Bridgewater husband and father said the experience has made him more gracious.
"Working in the field that I work in, you see a tough side of life," he said. "I'm thankful for what I've had, and I'm extending this for as long as I can."