My friend’s aunt recently told me about her struggle with cancer. When her prognosis was certain death, surrounded by her family, she exclaimed, “Do not curse God for this!” Faith in the Creator redoubled her will to conquer cancer. Although inspirations vary from person to person, all strengthen the human will to defy adversity. I had the pleasure of meeting a member of our community whose will to live broke death's cold grip: Glen Cove Police Officer Scott Genova.
On March 11, 2009, doctors diagnosed Scott with stage 4a nasopharyngeal basaloid squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (a form of throat cancer). Seventeen years of smoking half a pack of Parliament Lights cigarettes per day contributed to his illness. Six days later, Police Officer Pete Trubish and his uncle Mike McGuire facilitated Scott’s first consultation at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York City. The doctors gave him a grim prognosis of “six months to live” unless he endured 33 radiation and 6 chemotherapy treatments.
During Scott’s intense cancer treatments, he developed thrush, strep throat, and mucositis. In addition, the radiation treatment gave him severe second and third degree burns. He could not eat normally and received sustenance by tube.
An eight day coma and life-threatening sepsis would further test his mettle. In Scott’s words:
On May 21, 2009, my wife [Karen] went out for an early morning walk. When she came home to awaken me “to go for my daily cancer treatment,” I was in respiratory failure. She called 911. Northport Police and EMS arrived to find me at 50% oxygen. I was given a shot of Narcan to counteract my opiates on the ambulance. I aspirated in my sleep prior. I developed pneumonia in my right lung. I was brought to St. Catherine of Siena Hospital in Smithtown into the intensive care unit. I was intubated. The following day my body became septic while I was intubated in a coma. My organs began shutting down. They gave me a shot called Xigris that restarted my organs. My wife prayed and read healing scriptures over me the entire time I was in ICU [intensive care unit]. I miraculously awoke on May 29, 2009.
Scott's will to live is truly inspirational. Although he suffers from debilitated eyesight (he will undergo corrective surgery later this month) and permanently damaged hearing, he still aspires to patrol the streets of Glen Cove again. “I live by the motto of ‘never giving up,'” Scott said to me last month. “That is how I live my life. No matter what I undertake. I will not ever give up.”
As Scott strives for full duty status, he became a cancer survivor advocate and a motivational speaker for students of our school district. He also credits his recovery to a superb support network of family members, friends, and the brotherhood in blue (he regards Chief William Whitton as a “magnificent person”). I wish him Godspeed on his journey.