Bryan’s Story

“You’ve Got to Do the Work”

I Came Home to Fight!

Brian Houlihan was living and working in Costa Rica when he developed melanoma. He thought he had caught it early enough, but when it spread to his lymph nodes, he traveled more than 3,100 miles home to the States to have the cancerous tissue surgically removed.

“I was just saying to myself, ‘Okay, fight this, get going,’ but a year and half in and the scans just weren’t improving.”

Unexpected News

Here in Omaha, Brian underwent additional surgery, as well as radiation treatment. Although his physicians could find no evidence of disease at that point, Brian continued to explore options to prevent its recurrence.

During a standard physical for those considering clinical trials, he underwent a variety of tests, including a brain MRI. “I was driving home and I got a call asking me if I was experiencing any dizziness or blurry vision. When I said ‘no’ they told me there was a tumor in a particular part of my brain.”

“That was my panic moment,” Brian recalls. “I pulled over on the side of I-80 for about five minutes. I had some deep breaths.”

Always Moving Forward

Determined to stay positive, Brian began learning everything he could. “There’s a couple of websites that list clinical trials,” he explained, “and you’ve got to go in there and do your homework because you have to see where you fit.

Brian then worked with Dr. Ralph Hauke at NCS and enrolled in a clinical trial at Nebraska Cancer Specialists for immunotherapy – a treatment best described as training your body to fight the disease with its own cells.

Then, every three weeks for two years, Brian left his Old Mill office at The Lerner Company, and spent the afternoon at Nebraska Cancer Specialists receiving the trial medication via IV. He was fortunate to experience only minimal side effects, so he was able to return to work the next day.

It Takes a Village

From the moment he returned to Omaha, Brian leaned on his parents, his five siblings and other relatives to get him through cancer’s challenges. “I immediately moved in and stayed with my sister,” he recalls, “and my Grand Pop pulled me back up as I came out of my surgery.

Brian also reached out to others. He says networking, meeting with physicians, asking people for referrals was invaluable to him.

When I was trying to find my doctor, it was really about ‘who am I comfortable with when I meet them?’”

Today, a year after completing the trial treatment, Brian is cancer free. He continues to receive personalized care and check-ups through Nebraska Cancer Specialists. More than anything, he’s thankful, grateful for the “phenomenal care” he received and happy to enjoy days with his family and his Belgian Malinois pup, Nola.

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