Fagan family hang tough following stage 4 cancer diagnosis

In November, thanks to the Aiming for a Cure foundation, the Fagan family of Monticello was treated to an all-inclusive trip to the Wisconsin Dells. The family was able to get away and spend time together as Eric battles Stage 4 prostate cancer.

Devin and Eric Fagan have had to be away from their six children due to so many medical and doctor appointments the last year or so. Their trip to the Dells allowed them to have some quality time. (Photos submitted)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The attitudes of Eric and Devin Fagan of Monticello, and their six children, would lead you to believe that life inside the Fagan home is perfectly fine. They do not let on that their husband and father is battling Stage 4 prostate cancer.

   Eric, who’s in his 40s, was diagnosed on Nov. 8, 2021. Everything since then has been about jumping hurdles as he remains present in his family’s life.

   “It’s very aggressive,” Devin said of his cancer, which is not genetic. Nor has Eric ever had a history of cancer before now. “It’s hormonal.”

   One in 456 men in their 40s, like Eric, will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

   Prior to Eric’s diagnosis, he was experiencing pain that he thought was caused by kidney stones.

   “He couldn’t empty his bladder,” Devin said. “The prostate was shutting off and constricting.”

   On Nov. 4, 2021, he went in for a TURP (transurethral resection of the prostate) biopsy. This involved doctors surgically moving a portion of the prostate, which for Eric, was enlarged.

   Once he was diagnosed, they learned the cancer had metastasized to Eric’s bones and lymph nodes.

   The course of treatment included hormonal therapy at PCI in Cedar Rapids and chemotherapy every three weeks, six cycles.

   “I didn’t have any side effects,” Eric noted, with the exception of losing his hair.

   His immune system also took a toll.

   “It weakened my immune system.”

   In February 2022, Eric went in for a scan and they found out that the cancer progressed to his bones.

   By May, around Memorial Day, Eric was having back problems, which was thought to be a side effect of one of his medications. Doctors took his off that medicine.

   In July, due to his severe back issues, the Fagans made four visits to the ER.

   “Any time he would even cough, he had pain radiating throughout his entire body,” Devin shared.

   Eric was admitted to St Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, but the doctors told them there was nothing they could do because his C6 vertebrae was being compressed by the tumor.

   By this time, the tumor was compressing his spinal cord. He underwent a 14-hour surgery at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City to remove the tumor. Unfortunately, only about half the tumor could even be removed.

   “They weren’t able to get it all,” Eric said of not wanting to paralyze him.

   “It was pretty invasive,” remarked Devin.

   Eric was in the ICU for four days.

   Two hours into the surgery, Devin was contacted by the medical team because Eric was profusely bleeding out.

   “The tumor developed a blood supply and attached the vessels leading the brain and heart,” she said.

   Doctors were able to cut off about 80 percent of the blood supply and resumed surgery once more.

   “It’s a vascular tumor, which means it bleeds out,” added Devin.

   “That also means my spine is off limits for now,” Eric said of further surgeries.

   As part of the surgery, two metal rods and eight screws were inserted into Eric’s neck where the tumor was still active.

   In September 2022, he went through five rounds of radiation, five days in a row, on his c-spine and neck.

   Wanting to seek a second opinion on further treatment and options, the couple headed to the Mayor Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Doctors there performed a special scan. They determined that Eric happened to be a “prime candidate” for a new treatment that was FDA approved in the U.S. That drug is Pluvicto, which helps improve one’s survival rate.

   As of Jan. 3, Eric has only taken Pluvicto twice. (His first dose was in November.) He has to have six rounds of the drug every six weeks. This all has to be done in Rochester.

   Once a month, he also has an appointment at PCI to stretch his bones. Then, every three months, it’s back to PCI again for a hormone shot.

   “The cancer has spread throughout his bones and spine,” Devin said.

   Eric is also on a cocktail of more than two dozen pills, not including his pain meds.

   Just a few days before Christmas, Eric was back in the ER, but was determined to be home with his family for Christmas.

   “We just hope this wasn’t our last Christmas with him…,” Devin said fondly.

   In November, before Thanksgiving, the Fagan family was granted an all-expenses-paid trip to the Wisconsin Dells, thanks to the generosity of the non-profit Aiming for A Cure. The foundation works to improve the quality of life for oncology patients and their families.

   “We were able to just get away and forget about the serious stuff,” Devin said.

   Eric used to work full-time at Cornerstone Building Brands in Monticello. While he did return to work in the summer of 2022, he had to step away.

   “I worked in the trim department and ran the press machine,” he said. The pressure of doing his job was impacted his body.

   “He had difficulties doing every-day tasks,” Devin said.

   Since then, Eric has been home on disability.

   Devin home-schools their children, but has had to take time away to take Eric to so many medical appointments the past year or so. She had to also quit providing in-home daycare, something she did for the past 20 years.

   To help the Fagans with medical and travel expenses, the Monticello Knights of Columbus #1821 are hosting a chili cook-off on Jan. 21 in Newman Hall at Sacred Heart Church. There will also be a silent auction.

   Eric said there are many others who could use the support; the family has been overwhelmed with the outreach.


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