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Relay: Viers keeps fighting, farming

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Participating in clinical trial through Vanderbilt

By Kathy Ross

As LaRue Countians prepare for the annual Relay for Life event scheduled for May 15 at Hodgenville Elementary School, the local Relay for Life County Committee is focusing on local survivor stories. This is the fifth of eight stories. Roy Viers is your typical LaRue County farmer in one sense. On the family’s 200 acres off Fork Road, he and his brother Clyde are planning on planting their annual crops of tobacco and corn. They milk about 50 Holstein cows and work from sun up to sun down.  But in another sense, Roy is not your usual farmer. He has been battling a rare type of cancer for the last three years – a carcinoid tumor primarily located in his abdomen. Up until June 2006, his life had gone as planned. He and his wife Beverly were the proud parents of two daughters, Melissa and Amanda, and life on the farm was a way of life they loved. But what started out as a very slight pain in the center of his stomach below his ribcage turned into something so rare that only about 30 out of a million people are diagnosed. Viers first thought he might have an ulcer and his family doctor considered acid reflux. But the prescribed medicine did not deaden the pain. After a routine MRI indicated swollen arteries, more tests confirmed the cancer. Minor surgery was next on the list because the tumor was located in the mesenteries which is the diaphragm that suspends the intestines. His doctor at Norton’s Hospital wanted a second opinion from Vanderbilt and then came a trip to James Graham Brown Cancer Center to see if there were any options for additional surgery. The tumor had caused lesions on his liver and lungs and his lymph nodes were swollen. After surgery was ruled out, Viers began rounds of chemotherapy.  Generally, a carcinoid tumor is slow-growing, but because of Viers’ high metabolism, the cancer and pain has become more aggressive. As a farmer, he tries to work every day. The daily demands of farming require him to bypass the pain and thanks to his many friends and family the farming operation continues. He credits the many phone calls, prayers and cards as part of his daily medicine.  “I never knew so many people were thinking and praying for me. People I don’t even know have contacted me. It is really humbling and it’s just what I need,” said Viers.

Viers is participating in a clinical trial at Vanderbilt that uses a combination of ANG, which is a new unapproved drug, and Sorafenib tablets.  He remains hopeful a cure will be found. The Viers family and friends have also formed their first Relay for Life Team known as the Viers Crew – Keeping the Faith. With Relay just around the corner, Viers is glad his crew is working to raise money to find ways to cure all types of cancer and to discover some of the unknowns that make the disease so scary.

Until then, if you need to talk to Viers, just head out to his family farm. Pain or no pain, he’ll be out planting as soon as the rain stops.