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People Profile: Poetic Justice — Beating Cancer One Step at a Time

Network - Spring 2008

By Deborah Aranda

It started with walking two miles a day. Often ending short of the finish line. But when two-time cancer survivor Dave Massey completed 26.2 miles in the Mardi Gras Marathon, he knew nothing could defeat him. And the fact he did it with only one lung made the experience even more satisfying.

In fact, Massey has spent the last 22 years overcoming obstacles and taking on new challenges. He credits his success in fighting cancer to his optimistic and fun-loving personality.

He was first diagnosed in 1986 with mixed germ cell tumors in his hip and both legs, and, in 1997, a second tumor was found in his chest.

In his first diagnosis, a doctor in New Orleans told Massey he would have to amputate his legs, and he would never walk again.

“When the doctor said I wasn’t going to live six months, I said ‘You’re wrong,’” Massey says. He decided to get a second opinion, which brought him to M. D. Anderson.

The platform of his inspiration

Though he never doubted he would beat the disease, as doctors started a new treatment, fighting it became difficult. Over the course of nine months, Massey endured a rigorous number of treatments.

“They didn’t even know what the long-term side effects were because they didn’t have any long-term survivors,” he says.

"It's about perspective. Some people say it's bad that I'm having cancer twice, but I'm lucky. I survived before, and I'll survive again."
– Dave Massey about his poem Lucky Man

During his therapy, Massey was away from his home and family. Feelings of loneliness set in quickly, which proved to be one of the toughest obstacles he faced.

Soon, Massey began to recuperate and was cancer-free after nine months. Instead of a wheelchair for mobility, he used crutches while recuperating and regained strength in his legs. “The amazing thing is the more I moved around on my crutches the stronger I got.”

In his second diagnosis, doctors at M. D. Anderson removed a tumor the size of a grapefruit, tangled in his left lung. He decided if he was going to get better, he had to become more physically active. Three years ago, he started training for marathons with his wife, Karen.

Today Massey is cancer-free and is an accomplished writer, poet, husband and father. One of his biggest inspirations for writing poetry has been his daughter, Amber. What began as a challenge from a nurse to write a poem as a gift for her, transformed into a form of expression and comfort.

Recently, Massey published a book of poetry, “A Good Day Anyway,” and is in the process of editing a second one. He hopes his words can bring laughter and encouragement to those battling cancer.

He also speaks at cancer support groups and has founded a non-profit organization, A Good Day Inc. He encourages those affected by cancer to visit and share their own experience at his Internet site.

In February, Massey ran the Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans and is proud of his accomplishments. “At first I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it, but it’s amazing the things you can do.”

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center