Brookfield Village President Michael Garvey announced Monday night that he has been diagnosed with a malignant tumor behind his left eye and will be undergoing radiation treatment in the next week.
According to Garvey, 38, he learned on April 10 that he has a half-inch-by-half-inch cancerous tumor after initially seeing his optometrist about blurry vision in the corner of his left eye. That same day, he was examined by Dr. Jack Cohen, an ocular oncologist at Rush-Presbyetrian-St. Luke Hospital in Chicago who made the diagnosis.
Garvey began notifying family and friends of his condition shortly thereafter, and began telling village staff about a week ago. He said he decided to make a public announcement about his condition when it was clear that word of his condition was beginning to leak outside the walls of village hall.
“Part of me wanted to keep it private, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen,” Garvey said. “I informed all the members of the village board and the village manager, and I told employees late last week. I’m a little disappointed it got out. Unfortunately I’ve had people say they heard it in some strange places.”
What Garvey wanted to make clear, he said, was that his prognosis for recovery is good, and that “this is not going to slow me down at all.”
Garvey made the announcement of his condition formal at the end of Monday night’s meeting of the village board. He is expected to begin radiation treatment within a week, but said he hoped he would be back at the board table by the next scheduled meeting, on May 8.
His confidence about recovery, in good part, comes from the news that the cancer has not spread anywhere else in his body. According to the Ocular Melanoma Foundation, the condition is very rare and that the cancer can spread to the liver. Some 2,500 people in the United States are diagnosed with ocular melanoma each year.
“I spent April 10 getting blood tests and on April 11 had a CT scan of my liver and chest,” Garvey said. “On April 12 we got the results that it had not spread.”
Within the next week, Garvey said he will have surgery to implant a small metal disk loaded with radioactive seeds next to the tumor. Doctors will then bombard the disk with radiation. After five to seven days, during which Garvey will have to wear a lead patch over his left eye, he will have a second surgery to remove the disk.
“The doctor has assured me that when that radiation is done the tumor in eye will be gone,” Garvey said. “What they’re using will kill this tumor. There is a danger I could lose some sight in the eye or they could end up removing the eye. I’d rather not have that happen, but I know that people can function with just one eye.”
A call to Garvey’s doctor, Cohen, was not returned prior to press time.
At first, said Garvey, whose third child was born March 26, he thought the blurry vision was probably something minor.
“I attributed it to being tired,” he said. “But the blurred vision was the result of the retina slowly detaching. At this point my vision is blurry because of fluid build-up in the eye.”
Village Manager Riccardo Ginex said he and staff were shocked to hear news of Garvey’s condition a week ago.
“More than anything we wish him nothing but the best,” Ginex said. “Hopefully the procedure will take care of it and everything will be fine.”
Since the village manager is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the village, Garvey said the illness shouldn’t affect village business.