Beatrice rural firefighter benefits from advanced cancer treatment that’s close to home
Dustin McQuigg, assistant chief of the Beatrice Rural Fire Department, and his wife Tiffany, an emergency medical technician, are very experienced in helping people with urgent medical problems and life-threatening situations. In August, 2020, the McQuiggs confronted a crisis of their own.
Their ordeal began when Dustin, 35, became dizzy at work at Butler Agricultural Equipment in Pickrell. The big man fell hard, hitting his head on the concrete floor.
Dustin’s co-workers quickly took him to Beatrice Community Hospital, where doctors ran the first of many tests. Among those were brain imaging scans at Beatrice and more scans later at Bryan Medical Center, which showed something unusual — a dark spot — which suggested there may be a brain tumor.
Dustin was then seen by Neurosurgeon Steven Gogela, MD, of Neurological and Spinal Surgery. Additional testing found Dustin indeed had a brain tumor.
As the first phase of Dustin’s treatment, Dr. Gogela referred him to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, where surgeons removed 80 percent of a tumor, which cellular testing confirmed as a rare type of brain cancer called astrocytoma.
Dustin was able to return to Nebraska for the second phase of treatment. The portion of his tumor that couldn’t be removed surgically could be treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy by physicians at Cancer Partners of Nebraska (formerly known as Southeast Nebraska Cancer Center), right here in Lincoln.
Radiation therapy next
Dustin’s radiation therapy was provided at Bryan Pine Lake Campus by radiation oncologist Joseph Kam Chiu, MD, of Cancer Partners.
Dr. Chiu used a technical advancement called The Edge, a linear accelerator radiosurgery tool from Varian Medical Systems that treats brain tumors and other cancers without anesthesia, incision or hospitalization. This instrument provides radiation treatments with extreme precision, so there’s less radiation exposure to healthy tissue, and side effects are minimized.
The Edge is the most sophisticated of the current generation of linear accelerators. As such, it is another important medical advancement available in Lincoln that allows patients to stay near their homes and families rather than having to travel outside of the community for such advanced care.
Earlier this summer, Dustin completed radiation therapy and started chemotherapy under the care of Cancer Partners’ medical oncologist Scott McHam, DO. Patients at Cancer Partners of Nebraska participate in national treatment research trials through the practice’s research affiliation with MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“Between services at our practice and those offered by Bryan Health,” says Dr. McHam, “our patients have support through all aspects of cancer care, including emotional support through Bryan’s mental health services.”
Dustin describes his treatments with The Edge radiosurgery tool as a unique experience.
“There were 33 short treatments, and I wore a face mask to keep me absolutely steady while the machine moved around me. There was no pain, and in fact I felt nothing out of the ordinary. Each treatment lasted just 10 minutes, then I was free to go,” he says. “Over the course of my treatments I had some tiredness, but no headache, nausea or vomiting. Really, the side effects were mild — I was able to work every day throughout my radiation therapy except when I was in the hospital for a few days after surgery.”
Tiffany laughs while pointing out, “As you can see, it takes a lot to slow this guy down.”
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