A man of strong faith, Massey is receiving treatment for pancreatic cancer following successful surgeries. The diagnosis came after several months of tests to pinpoint what eventually presented as a tumor of unknown origin.
His faith, family, friends and great equanimity have helped him along his path to diagnosis. It began with shooting abdominal pains in September of 2010. “I was scanned, scoped and x-rayed,” Massey says, “and the tests showed a shadow that turned out to be a small mass, the size of a large marble, between the wall and lining in my small intestine.”
He underwent exploratory surgery at Rex Hospital, and his biopsy and blood work were sent to a specialized lab in California. The results would help determine what type of chemotherapy would best address his tumor. He had already begun treatment when the lab results showed that his tumor cell type was pancreatic, although there was no tumor in his pancreas.
One of the most profound moments along Massey’s cancer journey was when, after friends had spread the news of his cancer, he received a call from his longtime buddy Bill Starling, who serves on the UNC Lineberger Board of Visitors and lives in California. Starling and Massey went to Broughton High School together in Raleigh. Even though their lives had taken different paths and 40 years had passed since they had seen one another, their bond was still strong. Starling immediately jumped into action, first by explaining to Massey the world class cancer treatment and research at UNC Lineberger. Next, Starling put Massey in contact with UNC Lineberger surgical oncologist Dr. H.J. Kim, and an appointment was made for the following week. Without Starling’s knowledge of, and confidence in, the quality of care at UNC Lineberger and his compassionate urging, Massey may never have taken the step to seek help at UNC.
Massey’s Rex physician, Dr. JoEllen Speca, also suggested that UNC Lineberger would be an outstanding place to seek a second opinion regarding the treatment plan.
Massey was hesitant to leave Dr. Speca but came to the N.C. Cancer Hospital to consult with Drs. H.J. Kim and Bert O’Neil, a medical oncologist and leader of the GI Oncology Program. “Dr. Speca is my primary person, but I knew that Rex and UNC physicians work together, so I was okay with the decision.”
Massey’s visit to the N.C. Cancer Hospital went well. Drs. Bert O’Neil and oncology fellow Autumn McRee met with the Masseys to discuss Roland’s case. The UNC Lineberger team recommended that he continue his chemotherapy regimen at Rex and offered to monitor his progress after his treatments.
Massey reflects: “I’m so grateful for the heroic calls and emails Bill Starling put in motion to find me the best help in the world. Thanks to Bill, I was able to have a second opinion that confirmed my Rex team was already doing exactly what they would have done for me at UNC Lineberger.”
Massey sent Starling an email describing his visit to the N.C. Cancer Hospital. “I have never been wrapped in a better feeling of care, concern and true patient focus than going to UNC Lineberger. It is easy sometimes to get lost in the test tubes, machines and charts, but the people at the cancer center have not lost sight of the person sitting there in front of them facing the toughest challenges of their lives. The hope they provide is priceless. The help they give is truly beyond measure.”
Massey is continuing his treatments at Rex. He says that his cancer diagnosis has made him more flexible, that “I have more of an attitude to let the day come.” It has also strengthened his faith. “God has placed so many people in my path, from the doctors and nurses to friends and others to make this cancer journey easier.”
He compares the cancer experience to “looking in the abyss. It’s an opportunity to give up or to look for people like my friend Bill and others who will support and drive you to make the right choice.”
Massey and his wife, Teeny, one of his best friends from high school, have been married for 35 years. They have two children, Cameron, a practicing psychologist in Boone who is beginning a PhD candidacy at Univerity of South Carolina, and Hannah, who has recently finished her master’s in elementary education, and is teaching 4th grade in Charlotte.