The McIntyre brothers are in overtime.
This is the phrase filmmaker Chris McIntyre uses to describe the difference City of Hope has made for him and his younger brother, Rick. Both are outliving the gloomy predictions they received when they were diagnosed with cancer.
Chris McIntyre, left, and his brother, Rick, hope to support and inspire patients like themselves who are coping with cancer. (Photo by Thomas Brown)
Through a tumultuous year, the McIntyres have relied on City of Hope’s medical team — and one another. Although treatment has been difficult, they are grateful for the time together that therapy has offered them. And they have sought ways to give back to others at City of Hope.
“This place doesn’t feel, ever, like a hospital. It’s like you’re coming to visit friends,” said Chris McIntyre.
They first arrived at City of Hope in August 2010 in search of a second opinion.
Rick McIntyre, an artist and set designer, had withstood serious jaw pain for more than a year. After a series of misdiagnoses, he learned he faced advanced throat cancer. Unable to eat, McIntyre lost 53 pounds — nearly a third of his weight.
Doctors elsewhere said he had weeks, perhaps days, to live. Told that his only option was a risky 16-hour operation, he anxiously scheduled the procedure for 10 days later.
During that time, the brothers met with City of Hope surgeon Ellie Maghami, M.D., chief of the Division of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery. She offered an alternative: chemotherapy and radiation.
More than that, she reawakened his hope. She asked a simple but powerful question: “Do you want to live?”
That turned him around. “Once he said, ‘Yes,’ she just made this place move heaven and earth — not that they wouldn’t have anyway,” Chris McIntyre said.
There have been complications in the time since, but Rick McIntyre’s tumor has receded. He encourages other patients to tackle chemotherapy and radiation fearlessly, despite side effects.
“It’s not as bad as you think,” he said. “You can do it if you want to live; you just have to take it one day at a time.”
Inspired, his older brother also turned to City of Hope to battle his own cancer.
Doctors who originally found his aggressive prostate tumor predicted that Chris McIntyre had two years to live. That was more than
18 months ago. He has fended off the disease with hormone therapy and, more recently, radiation.
He said, “I met Jeffrey Wong, who runs the radiation oncology department, and from the first minute, I thought, ‘This is the guy I want taking care of me.’”
The McIntyres grew up part of a close-knit family on a farm in Shanksville, Penn. Their bond, and careers in entertainment, drew them and their sister to Southern California. Now their shared cancer journey has brought them even closer.
To express their gratitude to the City of Hope family, the brothers recently hosted a free screening of “21 and a Wakeup,” a film Chris McIntyre, a Vietnam veteran, wrote and directed. More than 300 City of Hope staffers attended the screening.
“When everybody filed out, I realized I knew every one of these people. I know 300 people at City of Hope,” said Chris McIntyre.
The brothers also like to brighten the holidays for City of Hope’s pediatric patients. In 2010, Chris McIntyre gave away 2 million frequent flyer miles so kids could visit with faraway family members. This year, they will host a free screening of a children’s movie for young patients, their families and their nurses in Glendale, Calif., on Dec. 11.
“And if I’m around next Christmas, I’ll think of something else,” said Chris McIntyre, with a hopeful smile.