A Georgia veteran who waited a year to get a cancer screening at a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital has died of the disease, his wife said Saturday.
WXIA News reports Norman Spivey passed away at his Douglasville home Saturday morning. His wife, Gayla Spivey, was with him. She said he became unresponsive shortly before midnight on Friday and called emergency personnel to the house. They were unable to revive him and he was pronounced dead Saturday morning.
The Spiveys’ struggle with the VA was first reported by WXIA in July after the U.S. Army veteran, who fought in Vietnam, was hospitalized after collapsing at home.
The doctors told him he had stage four colon cancer that had spread to his liver and lymph nodes.
It was devastating news for the Spiveys who, for a year, had been trying to get the man scheduled for a colonoscopy at the VA Hospital in Atlanta.
“I got a letter from the [VA] hospital, saying they was backed up and couldn't schedule right now, you know. And so then we just never heard anymore from them,” Norman Spivey explained at the time.
The news that the cancer had spread to other parts of his body meant that radiation treatment was out of the question.
Gayla Spivey said at the time she couldn’t help but wonder if an early colonoscopy could have caught the disease before it spread.
“I have no way of knowing that if he had had a colonoscopy a year ago, that the outcome would be any different,” she said. “But there's always that possibility. A year? A year to work with it. You know? I mean, it may not have spread to the liver. It may not have spread to the lymph nodes.”
She said she had no illusions about the chances of curing such an advanced case of cancer.
WXIA reported that shortly after his diagnosis the VA hospital contacted the couple to get him scheduled for chemotherapy appointments.
His wife had been hopeful that the treatments would buy her some more time with her husband.
But the treatments took their toll on the 64-year-old father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
Although doctors said the chemotherapy was having a positive effect on the cancer, Norman Spivey had lost 54 pounds and was unable to eat.
“His spirits were so good,” his wife said. “He had such a good outlook, he was determined to get better.
“He fought cancer as hard as any battle he ever fought,” she added. “He was the strongest, most courageous man I've ever known. He was a brave soldier all the way up until the end. He will be missed by many, many people.”