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Magistrate diagnosed with cancer

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Phillips to begin chemotherapy

By Calen McKinney

 

The fight has just begun, but he says he feels optimistic.

Taylor County magistrate Richard Phillips was diagnosed last week with cancer. He began the first of six chemotherapy treatments yesterday.

Phillips says his cancer was caught early, and his doctors have said they believe his cancer might be curable.

Phillips, who is in his second term as 6th District magistrate, has worked at Taylor Regional Hospital for 25 years, where he is staff development coordinator.

Before being elected to his magistrate seat, Phillips served on the Campbellsville City Council for two years.

His diagnosis started with what Phillips describes as pain caused by a kidney stone. He said he has had kidney stones before, so he thought he had another one. The pain fluctuated, Phillips said, and he was managing it. But on Jan. 17, it got so bad he went to the TRH emergency room for treatment.

After some scans and other tests, a doctor told Phillips his pain wasn’t being caused by a kidney stone.

“The physician told me, ‘You have a mass.’”

A surgeon was called, Phillips said, and a biopsy was scheduled. After a couple biopsies and a bone marrow test, the mass was identified.

Last Friday, Phillips was told he has non-Hodgkin’s follicular lymphoma. The cancer arises from a type of white blood cell. Phillips’ cancer is in an early stage, and is “low grade.”

After being diagnosed, Phillips said, he and his doctors came up with a treatment plan. Phillips will take six chemotherapy treatments and have preventative chemo boosters every two months for the next two years.

His first chemo treatment, done at the TRH James Graham Brown Cancer Center, was scheduled to take between six and eight hours. Phillips will have a treatment every 21 days.

Phillips said it’s comforting to him to know that all of his doctors are in his hometown, so he doesn’t have to travel for treatment. He said the staff members at TRH have been very supportive. And he says his doctors have told him his type of cancer could be cured, something he didn’t expect to hear.

“We prayed for a very treatable kind, and that’s what happened,” he said.

Phillips said he hopes to continue working while undergoing treatment. That will depend on how he feels after having chemo. As of Tuesday, he said, he felt great.

“If I feel good, I’ll be working Friday,” he said.

And Phillips said he believes his magisterial duties won’t be impacted at all throughout his treatment.

“If there’s a situation that needs to be dealt with, I’ll be sure it’s dealt with,” he said. “All of the magistrates have reached out to me and are willing to help in any way they can.”

Phillips said his family at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church is also supporting him. He said they had a prayer service for him when he began experiencing pain.

“And from that point forward, it did not hurt,” he said. “I could control my pain with medicine. I think prayer has helped.”

This isn’t Phillips’ first battle with cancer. In 2009, he was diagnosed with melanoma, a form of skin cancer. He didn’t have to treat that cancer, he only had a spot on his skin removed.

Hearing he has cancer again, albeit a different type, Phillips said, is still shocking. There isn’t a long history of cancer in his family, though a sister had breast cancer.

“That’s a very scary word when you hear that again,” he said. “It’s a sickening feeling. It’s so scary and there [are] so many unknowns.

“The cancer takes complete control of your schedule. It’s what you think about all the time.”

But Phillips says having a plan to battle his cancer makes him feel better prepared to get started.

“They’ve even said the word ‘curable,’” he said. “We’re overly blessed. I have 100 percent faith in my medical team.”

Phillips said his wife, Marnie, has been very supportive throughout his diagnosis.

“She makes everything right,” he said.

He said he has also received an outpouring of support from his children, friends, co-workers at TRH and colleagues in county government.

“We feel very positive,” he said. “We will do whatever they tell me to do.”

Phillips says he is optimistic that he will once again beat cancer.

“There’s a bunch of people right now doing the exact same things and a lot are worse,” he said.

Phillips said he appreciates support and prayers throughout this illness. He said he has already received many cards and letters.

“Everyone’s just been wonderful to us,” he said.