In January 2010, Charlie Glass was diagnosed with diverticulitis on a business trip. However, he left with such excruciating pain that he had to go to another clinic the following day where the doctor realized something else was going on and immediately sent him to the ER where the dreaded words that we all fear were stated, “you have cancer.”
Advised to see an oncologist, he went to West Clinic where they debated whether to take immediate surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. This wasn’t the norm that they saw. MD Anderson was recommended for a second opinion. West Clinic and MD Anderson worked hand in hand as questions flooded the family that normally overwhelm families. “How aggressive? What next? Will there be surgery? Will he survive? How big is the tumor? Will he ever be the same?” No, no matter if you survive or not. Cancer. You suck and we will never be the same.
Thank God for family and friends who encouraged us, introduced us to patients at MD Anderson so we didn’t feel alone, and confirmed that we were in the best hands. The first appointment was with Dr Benjamin, the head of the sarcoma department, which West Clinic highly recommended. Here at West Clinic we discovered that it wasn’t just sarcoma but also bladder cancer that had to be treated first. Judy, Charlie’s wife, quickly learned to be a nurse changing a pic line and serving him as he struggled with the aftermath of chemo. She held his hand through the brain toxicity as he was hospitalized. Their whole life was picked up and moved to Houston for those months of treatments, battles with the chemotherapy, and life-threatening surgeries. The first tumor that they removed was 11 pounds and the size of a football. A good outcome was never predicted but thanks to God, MD Anderson, and the hundreds of praying hands we had over him, he survived the surgery and lived to tell the crazy tale of having a football in his stomach. And what an incredible storyteller he was!
Eventually, Judy and Charlie were able to move back home to Covington and go back and forth for treatments as well as another surgery had in Houston where Charlie had 23 tumors successfully removed. Again, an act of God and wonderful doctors at MD Anderson.
Again, the tumors came back and resources for treatment were running out. He HAD to be diagnosed with the rare cancer that is so underfunded and had no cure or real treatment plan. It was a 3-year survival rate at the time. No treatment, no clinical trials, nothing. Time was running out. The worst thing you can be told, there is nothing left for us to do. However there was one more option, they could go to Canada for more chemo but had to pay cash & take a private jet. However, we learn that more chemo could cause more cancer because it breaks down the body causing more vulnerability for cancer to take hold. Every family member of Charlie’s begins researching every option, every doctor, every possible life change Charlie could make that could save him. Was it worth the risk? So many unknowns for this cancer. He chose to go to Canada for treatment, then when that didn’t seem to get it, tried Mexico. Flying back to Houston, Charlie got extremely ill and had to be taken by ambulance where we discover everything is shutting down. He no longer can eat and has to eat from a feeding tube making him weaker in return making the trip to Houston for another surgery impossible. Memphis was recommended for surgery.
Sarcoma is currently a death sentence unless it’s diagnosed as a childhood cancer. As St Jude is the place for childhood cancers, MD Anderson is that for adult cancers. Doctors are relatable and do everything they can to encourage their patients to stay positive. Charlie was a huge Parrot Head (Jimmy Buffett fan) and his doctor would play the album “A Pirate looks at Forty” during surgery and treatments for Charlie. I remember Charlie having terrible episodes from the chemo where he would put his iPod on and sit down and let the music take him somewhere else..to better times.
MD Anderson was more than a treatment center. It was a network, connecting lives that were experiencing the fear of sarcoma and the unknowns. Charlie made friends with several patients and watched some survive longer than him and others pass. But each encouraging one another and lifting one another up. Endless days of card playing, hand holding, and slow walks around their beautiful campus-Charlie and Judy found home in Houston for their time there and family in staff and the other patients.
Charlie Glass was born to a farming family in Covington, TN. He loved family more than anything. He was so proud of his wife, children, and grandchildren. He loved that he had the opportunity to develop and live on his family farm that he grew up on and to design and build a beautiful pond beside his house that had his favorite fishing day in it, Shellcracker Brim and Bass… and the most gorgeous sunset you will ever see in the South. He loved to hunt, fish, be on the water- mostly the ocean, coach and watch sports, travel, and of course Jimmy Buffett, his twin- or so his daughters would say! He loved his company, EPG Insurance writing extended warranties for heavy equipment like Volvo, CAT, & John Deere (always reminding him of where he came from) that he developed alongside Bill Eck. He was driven and accomplished every dream he ever put to paper. He was an underwriter at Lloyd’s of London, started White Oak Underwriting Agency and EPG London. He loved the Lord his God will all his heart, soul, and mind. I have honestly never met someone more generous and more full of grace. Charlie always told people, “Find what you are passionate about and work hard. And always serve others while doing it”. His optimistic nature kept him alive those almost 3 years, the max survival rate. He was a fighter. He asked his daughter Kathleen to promise to create a foundation that would raise money for Sarcoma Research and treatment so she could give others hope and a future. Charlie knew deep down that there was no hope but he donated all he could to MD Anderson’s research in hopes they would find a cure or just a treatment that may extend his life. So here we are years later, Kathleen holding her promise to her father creating The Hope Promise to fund the research of Dr. Ludwig to help create an experimental drug option to patients and not just that, but to make it affordable. Charlie was blessed to have enough to afford the alternative treatments outside of the US, but we need to make it affordable so families don’t have the financial burden alongside the emotional, heart heavy burden they already have. Dr. Ludwig’s plan is just that. An experimental drug that would be affordable to sarcoma patients.