The first time retired United States Air Force Brig. Gen. Henry Newcomer met Mayo Clinic hematologist-oncologist Vivek Roy, M.D., he gave the doctor an order. The general was about to begin treatment for multiple myeloma and was quite specific about his expectations for the mission. "He was 92 when he first came to see us," nurse Tammy McGarry tells us. "And during that appointment, he told Dr. Roy that it was up to him to help him make it to 100 years old." While some may have been taken aback by the demand, McGarry and Dr. Roy took it in stride. "We said, 'OK, that's why we're here. We'll do everything we can,'" she says.
And Brig. Gen. Newcomer tells us they have. "Tammy's been the closest to me these past eight years — always letting me know what's going on with my blood tests, calling me, and just doing whatever else she can to follow and treat my multiple myeloma," he says. "She's a great testament and tribute to what makes Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic."
As is, he says, Dr. Roy. "He's a splendid, professional doctor," Brig. Gen. Newcomer says. "One of the things I appreciate about him the most is that he listens to me." When the general told Dr. Roy that he wanted to stop the chemotherapy treatments because "at my age, I was starting to feel more negative effects than positive ones," Brig. Gen. Newcomer says Dr. Roy "allowed me to do that, even though I know he feels strongly about chemo and has great confidence in its use."
Now that the general is no longer in active treatment, McGarry says she and Dr. Roy don't see him as often as they once did. But that didn't stop them from celebrating the keeping of the original promise they made to him at the first appointment eight years earlier.
"I knew it was coming up," McGarry says of Brig. Gen. Newcomer's 100th birthday. So when she saw that he would be in for an appointment, McGarry says she "went out and ordered a cake, got a bunch of patriotic-themed balloons, and got everybody together to surprise him when he came in."
Brig. Gen. Newcomer says he never saw it coming. "I had no idea they were doing it," he tells us. "It was a complete surprise to me and, just like a child, I was thrilled. It was a very, very kind gesture to have my whole care team come out and sing 'Happy Birthday' to me and have a birthday cake and balloons. It was very touching." And a great party, he notes.
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