By Pat Carragher - August 08, 2022
As Drew Garabo prepares to return to work, the talk radio host recently provided a positive update on his year-long battle with testicular cancer. Garabo shared a video of himself ringing the bell at Moffitt Cancer Center, marking the end of his latest round of treatment. The bell ringing isn’t his first, and it may not be his last, but for now it’s a milestone he’s happy to have hit.
“I first came to Moffitt in back in March and when I rang the bell on my way out, I knew in the back of my mind that it probably wasn’t going to be the last time,” Garabo said. “For the second round I really got my mind right. This time I knew I wasn’t getting chemotherapy again for a long time, if ever. To ring that bell knowing that I’m not getting pumped with chemo anymore felt amazing.”
Garabo’s cancer journey started back in August 2021 when he noticed some discomfort and pain in one of his testicles.
“Like most men I probably let it go a little bit too long thinking it's nothing,” said Garabo. “I went to a urologist to go get it checked out, and as soon as he felt the area, he knew I needed to get an ultrasound. Once he looked at that the diagnosis was stage 2 seminoma.”
Seminoma is a type of testicular cancer that begins in germ cells. A stage 2 diagnosis means that the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. Garabo had his right testicle removed, then underwent four weeks of chemotherapy with a community oncologist only to find out that not only did his lymph nodes fail to shrink, but they had had grown significantly. Garabo was then referred to experts at Indiana University Health to discuss a stem cell transplant.
“The doctor I spoke with at IU mentioned that they offer stem cell transplants at Moffitt,” said Garabo. “As soon as he said that a lightbulb went off. Why didn’t I just go to Moffitt in the first place? I went online and scheduled an appointment as soon as I ended that zoom call.”
According to Dr. Jad Chahoud, an oncologist in Moffitt’s Genitourinary Oncology Program, most patients with stage 2 seminoma can be cured with standard chemotherapy. Garabo was unfortunately in the rare group that didn’t respond to standard treatment. He was put on a high dose chemotherapy regimen followed by a stem cell transplant.
“When testicular cancer does not respond to frontline treatment we recommend a second line of high dose chemotherapy,” said Chahoud. “Sometimes if we have a partial response to chemotherapy, but significant viable disease remains, we are able to surgically resect it. His cancer unfortunately didn’t respond to the frontline chemotherapy, and it grew quickly after treatment which is why we went with high dose chemotherapy for the second round.”
Garabo’s treatments were going as planned until one night he felt a severe pain.
“I thought something and ruptured,” he said. “I could barely get to the emergency room. I found out I had a 13 centimeter mass in my stomach. I went back over to Moffitt’s Urgent Care and spent the next 11 days as they tried to shrink it down.”
Julia Donovan Simmons is a registered nurse in Moffitt’s Genitourinary Oncology Program. She recalled the night Garabo came to Moffitt’s Urgent Care.
“He told me he was in 10 out of 10 pain,” said Donovan Simmons. “I looked at his cat scan results from the ER and I knew it was bad. Luckily, we were able to rush him in here and get him started on inpatient chemo. That’s not typical for most patients that come through Urgent Care. Typically, we try to get people in a stable condition and then have them evaluated for a treatment plan. His disease was progressing so rapidly that we knew we had to get him treated right away.”
After three separate stays at “Hotel Moffitt” as he calls it, Garabo is due for follow up scans in October. While he’s hopeful his lymph nodes will have shrunk completely, he knows that there’s a chance that more treatment is in his future.
Ringing the bell doesn’t necessarily mean that a cancer patient has beaten cancer. It does, however, mark the end of a round of treatment.— Drew R. Garabo (@DrewOnTheRadio) July 30, 2022
Yesterday, I got to ring that bell and go home after almost 3 weeks at @MoffittNews and it felt great! pic.twitter.com/aUPx7ix6HZ
“I assume radiation is on the table. I assume surgery on the table,” said Garabo. “But right now, I feel great and for the next few months I’m just going to live life.”
Whatever the future holds, Garabo knows he’s in good hands and is on the right path with a clear goal to one day be cancer free.
“From my first appointment right up until this last round of chemotherapy, I have been blown away,” said Garabo. “Not just by the level of care, but by the genuine feeling that every single person that you touch, every single person you encounter at Moffitt makes you feel like they are fighting the fight along with you. They make you feel like they want to not only get rid of just your cancer, but everybody's cancer. Whether it's someone drawing your blood or someone administering chemotherapy, every single person that I’ve talked to has blown me away by making me feel like they're part of my fight.”