Longtime law enforcement officer recalls battle against cancer
Being a consummate optimist, Bart McAtee had high hopes that everything was going to be just fine when he had a 4.5-pound tumor removed from his kidney in November 2014.
The cancerous tumor, the size of a football, had been detected during a CT scan when the longtime law enforcement officer was experiencing some trouble with his gallbladder. Because the tumor had not caused McAtee any discomfort, he didn’t know he had one. The tumor was so large that an inside portion had died because blood could not get to it.
“My surgeons at IU Simon Cancer Center were awesome, and so was the staff. They saved my life. I just knew everything was going to be OK,” said McAtee, who has a 23-inch scar as a memento of the occasion. “The center still uses tissue from the tumor. I said they could keep it because I sure didn’t have any need for it.”
And everything was fine until a follow-up CT scan revealed that the cancer had metastasized to his lungs, where 24 small tumors where discovered. Tumors had also developed elsewhere.
The doctors put McAtee on Nexavar, which was known to stop the growth of tumors but only for a while. “My disease was incurable and inoperable. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to die. Short and sweet, prayer was my only hope. I started to plan on not being around for my wife (Denise); I started to get our finances in order in July 2015.”
Those prayers must have been answered because in mid-2016, McAtee was asked to participate in a clinical cancer trial conducted by AstraZeneca, a research-based biopharmaceutical company.
“I was hesitant at first because I had to stop taking Nexavar for several months,” but McAtee said he didn’t have much to lose.
After being on the new medication, which doesn’t have a name, for two months, the tumors had shrunk by 50 percent. After six months they were virtually gone. Doctors have detected a small growth but they think it is scar tissue.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m cured, but the tumors are gone. I have been told that the success rate for this drug is 25 percent,” said McAtee, who receives monthly infusions without any side effects. “I know you have to be free of cancer for so many years before you are declared cancer-free, but the doctors are convinced that I am cancer-free. My only concern is that they might quit manufacturing this drug.
“I know God played a role in this. Without his intervention I would not be here.
“I’m sure I have racked up well over a million dollars in medical bills. The insurance companies have been outstanding, and I don’t have to pay to participate in the clinical trial.”
McAtee also battles diabetes, and even though he has it under control, he thinks it will give him more trouble in the long run than cancer.
McAtee, who was employed by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police and Marion County Sheriff’s departments before retiring from IMPD, is a lieutenant colonel with the Sheriff’s Department and is the communications division commander of 911.
Law enforcement runs in the family. His father, Joe McAtte, is a former IPD Chief and Marion County sheriff; brother Bret retired from IMPD in January; and son Jake (Mary Jane) is a sergeant with the Speedway Police Department. Daughter Katie (Adam) Gaff teaches art at Center Grove High School.
No matter how optimistic Bart McAtee may feel about something, he knows that it’s always good to have God on your side.