Kent police officer takes charge of his toughest case yet

Garth Corner

Winding through the rainy streets of the City of Kent, muffled voices over the radio in the background, police officer Garth Corner was on a routine call from the dispatcher when he realized the vision in his left eye was blurrier than normal.

It was time for him to get glasses—or so he thought.

Garth experienced a slow deterioration in his vision but chalked it up to aging. He put off seeing his primary physician or an optometrist— he was too busy with his family, hobbies, and job serving the community.

After more than one year of blurred vision, Garth visited his doctor where he learned that his eye condition might require more than glasses. He was referred to ocular oncologist Andrew Stacey, M.D. and diagnosed with ocular melanoma.

As a healthy, active person with no family history of cancer, Garth was in shock. He never thought he would get cancer or that it was possible to get melanoma in one's eye.

Faced with the risk of losing his eyesight, Garth worried that his job – which relies on vision and awareness – would be impossible to perform and therefore disrupt his ability to provide for his wife and two daughters. Never in his 10 years on the Kent police force or his 21 years in the military had he encountered a more frightening obstacle.

Familiar with taking charge of challenging situations, Garth sprang into action. In his follow-up consultation, Garth received two treatment options. One was a traditional therapy where a radioactive disk would be attached to the wall of his eye to slowly treat the melanoma, but would place surrounding healthy tissue and his vision at greater risk of harm. The other was proton therapy treatment, which is a significantly less invasive, targeted form of radiation therapy.

With his doctors’ guidance, Garth decided on proton therapy because it was less impactful on his daily life. By the end of the consultation, Garth had a plan of action that allowed him to take charge of his treatment.

The conversation with his then 13 and 15-year old daughters, and wife of 21 years was emotional, but the treatment plan gave everyone a sense of hope that Garth's cancer would be treated nearly as swiftly as it was identified.

To prevent tumor growth or further vision impact, Garth immediately began treatment at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Proton Therapy Center. Garth received a total of five treatments over five consecutive days, each session for no longer than 20 minutes, that targeted the tumor with the greatest amount of direct radiation and then stopped with the goal of minimizing damage to the surrounding tissue.

Proton therapy enabled Garth to continue his healthy lifestyle. He was able to work, go on outdoor adventures with his family, and work on his two project cars—a ’92 Mustang and ’89 Ford van—during treatments.

In November 2019, just two months after discovering his ocular melanoma, Garth concluded his proton therapy treatment. The tumor was gone and he did not experience further eyesight deterioration.

Today, Garth has a new outlook on life. Personally, he and his wife are starting to tackle their bucket list instead of waiting “for a better time.” Professionally, Garth is looking forward to advancing in the police force and mentoring the next generation of Kent police officers.

As someone dedicated to his community and his family, Garth feels fortunate his proton therapy treatment plan empowered him to take charge of his body and cancer treatment. Ultimately, proton therapy turned the scariest challenge he’d ever encountered into a manageable obstacle that could be overcome with a game plan and a world-class team.

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