Employees News

Student treated at Georgia Cancer Center returns as oncology pharmacist

Man smiling
Written by Lisa Kaylor

David Bailey found his calling at the Georgia Cancer Center, first as a patient, then as a student. Today, he’s an oncology pharmacist doing his best to bring comfort to patients like himself.

His cancer journey started in 2011, when he was 19 and an undergraduate at the University of Georgia. Bailey had just decided to take control of his health and began working out. His mother noticed he was quickly losing weight, but they chalked it up to his weight loss efforts. Then he developed a cough that progressively got worse.

“Right before finals, I remember waking up and my face was just swollen,” he said. “I noticed that my chest just had black lines everywhere.”

Bailey was diagnosed and treated for allergies and mumps while his symptoms continued to worsen, until his physician in Athens ordered an X-ray and discovered his right lung was completely full of fluid.

A few months later, on a Friday the 13th in January 2012, Bailey learned he had an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The tumor covered his entire chest, and fluid filled his lungs and the area around his heart.

“UGA has a campus here (at Augusta University) – students come here for the Two Plus Two program and for their rotations. One of their faculty heard about my being an aspiring pharmacy student, and he brought his students to talk to me about pharmacy school,” he said.

Bailey began chemotherapy at the Georgia Cancer Center that spring. After three cycles of chemotherapy, the tumor began shrinking and the fluid was reduced around his heart. By summer, scan results showed that the tumor was gone, and Bailey is now cancer free.

“Throughout this entire time, the team at the cancer center was fantastic. They answered all the questions my parents and I had about my treatment plan, how I was doing, what my numbers looked like and the explanation of the numbers,” he said.

After graduating with his PharmD and working retail, Bailey found a job doing nuclear pharmacy in Augusta, which is a highly specialized discipline that involves dispensing radioactive medications used for diagnosis through cardiology scans, PET scans, etc. He enjoyed it, but when an opening for an oncology pharmacist opened at the Georgia Cancer Center, he knew that was where he wanted to be.

“What’s great about this job is that I’m looking at patients and I am adjusting medications, but I am also still part of a team that manages these (cancer) patients,” he said. “I’m glad I’m on this other side, that I’ve pushed through it and with that I still have that optimism that other people are able to do this too. It’s not a death sentence anymore with cancer.”

Occasionally, Bailey encounters a patient who is on a similar regimen of cancer treatment he went through. Not only can he process and adjust their medication, he is also able to draw on his own experience to alleviate their fears, or help with side effects.

“I’m able to answer all of those questions better, just from my own experience,” he said.

Bailey has a strong faith in God, and said he believes he was meant to go through his cancer journey so that he could be right where he is today, providing the necessary medications to help cancer patients get well while sharing his own experience to give them hope and help them feel less alone.

“Every day, people are able to go out and live their own lives, and that is what I try to make sure these people are doing,” he said.