Posted by: Duke Raleigh Hospital | June 4, 2013

When Irish Eyes are Smiling; Patrick Larkin got throat cancer, and still calls 2012 his best year

Patrick Larkin thought it “unfair” that he got cancer. But only because the Dublin native and Statesville resident has the loveliest Irish lilt and a bent for storytelling, and the throat cancer made talking a little tough.

Other than getting hoarse, cancer wasn’t a bother for him. In fact, he says, “It was a fun experience for me. I’m not all gloom and doom, so I never took it very seriously, if you want to know the truth of it.”

Larkin brought Irish good cheer to Duke Raleigh’s cancer center. During the time he spent there, the place felt more like a friendly Irish pub than a cancer center. “I didn’t really think of myself as a patient, you know,” he jokes. “I thought they worked for me. They needed to ask me for permission to take a few days off.”

Dori Trone, RN, BSN, OCN, and Lindsay Kovacic, RD, CSO, LDN, with Patrick Larkin

Dori Trone, RN, BSN, OCN, and Lindsay Kovacic, RD, CSO, LDN, with Patrick Larkin

As for Larkin, a hotel manager, he never missed a day of work during his treatment – something the Duke Raleigh staff says is unusual for people undergoing radiation.

The love was mutual. Dori Trone, RN, BSN, OCN, Larkin’s patient navigator, says, “He is the best! I absolutely do believe that the positive attitude Patrick had throughout his treatment made a huge difference.”

Larkin won’t acknowledge his radiation treatment was anything but a party, but Trone says she believes otherwise. “I know there were some hard days, but he pushed through and did everything he needed to do to take care of himself and stay on track for treatment,” she says. “I feel very fortunate to have gotten to know such a wonderful person. He is thought of so often, and we have the pleasure of seeing him whenever he is over this way. He pops in and checks in on us from time to time to make sure we are staying on top of things.”

Larkin enjoyed the experience so much that he can’t stay away – even though he’s finished with radiation treatments. He claims to have gone through “withdrawals” because he missed the staff so much. The staff misses him, too. “Patrick actually stopped by this afternoon because he needed a cup of coffee,” laughs Lindsay Kovacic, RD, CSO, LDN,  his outpatient dietitian. “Everyone has become a huge fan.”

Larkin and the staff spent plenty of time together. He received treatment daily for “eight or nine weeks.” (He can’t recall exactly. Cancer just wasn’t a big deal for him.)

Larkin’s wife, Linda, remembers the treatment quite clearly, though. “It began in June with the teeth removal,” she recalls. Having his teeth removed was a medical necessity since the radiation was so close to the jaw. It was a potential hazard to the integrity and structure of the jaw bone, Linda Larkin explains. Then, she says, radiation included “35 treatments from July to early September. Chemo was in July and August. The only time Patrick had any anxiety was when there was the possibility of a third chemotherapy session in September, which never occurred.”

Through it all, Larkin remained in good spirits. “Dori and I worked closely with Patrick,” Kovacic notes. “His positive attitude has often reminded me to take a greater outlook on life and look at the way we really react to situations. [Cancer] was what Patrick called a ‘hiccup’ in his life. It wasn’t a setback. He often calls 2012 the ‘best year of his life.’”

“He jokes with us often that he was put in this situation for our benefit,” Kovacic says.  “Nonetheless, through the jokes there was some seriousness. During the hard days he barreled through, and I am 100 percent sure he didn’t miss work one day simply because of his positive attitude. I remind patients often that a positive outlook does make a difference.”

“Dori and I have put Patrick in contact with some patients going through the same regimen simply because we know just talking to him can lift one’s spirits,” Kovacic says.

Indeed he can. He and Linda found themselves not just keeping relatives in Ireland updated on the progress, but entertaining them, too, via the private Facebook page the Larkins set up. One of Linda’s first posts read: “This will NOT be a down/depressing/sad group! It’s to be an uplifting, fun, happy, sharing environment! Feel free to share with others who might benefit from the experience! Post COMMENTS to AND ABOUT Patrick; post thoughts, suggestions, advice or just about anything you want to say. INSPIRE!”

Typical humor from Larkin on Facebook is the post from Aug. 28, 2012: “I met with Dr. Fesko today and I asked him if I will be getting a mention in any medical journals. He said he would work on it!” And when he finished his final treatment, he asked on Facebook: “Now what do I do at 8 a.m. Monday to Friday? Or, to put it another way, what are all the people at Duke going to do?” (They went through withdrawals after Larkin was no longer in their midst each day.)

Larkin and Cleo

Larkin and Cleo

And there’s more trademark Larkin humor. He says his story really can’t be told without “giving a shout-out to Cleo.” Cleopatrick (her full name) is Larkin’s Beagle, and he says, “Cancer turned her whole life upside-down, yet she never complained.” She’s a lot like her master that way.

Post-treatment, Larkin has gotten his lovely voice back – and he has no shortage of stories to share with anyone lucky enough to hear them. You might call him an Irish blessing.

Duke Raleigh Cancer Center is celebrating all cancer survivors on June 4 for our National Cancer Survivors Day Celebration. Join us for refreshments, music, art, and more!


Responses

  1. LOVELY story! Thanks, Page Leggett and Duke Raleigh! Patrick’s been an inspiration to everyone his entire life but never realizes it himself!

    • Thank you, Linda! We truly appreciate your support and all of the kind words for our cancer center team. We think both you and Patrick are an inspiration, and feel honored to be able to share your story.

      • Here’s the response from Patrick’s older brother who is comical as is Patrick: Comment in an email from Patrick T Larkin’s brother who doesn’t do Facebook: “hard to believe this modest fellow is my brother so so humble”
        Hugh


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