Dr. John McHugh has been a private practice urologist in Gainesville, Georgia and on the staff at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center, for over twenty years. He received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry at North Georgia College in Dahlonega, Georgia. He went to medical school and did his urologic residency at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Georgia. He and his wife Karen have been married thirty years and have three children. His interests include teaching youth Sunday school, history, and anything related to water, particularly fishing. He was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer in 2007. Witnessing for years the frustration of his patients making “the decision” regarding which therapy to choose and then having to experience it himself, prompted him to define his “decision making” journey for others. In the months that followed the results of his biopsy, it became clear that the decision is multifaceted and depends a lot on the patient’s particular situation at the time of diagnosis. Combining his story telling abilities with his medical insight and experience offers the reader a fresh and novel approach to deciding what to do about his newly diagnosed cancer.
PS. This picture was taken during a photo shoot for the cover of my book. The photographer was troubled both by what should be used to fill up the urine bag as well as how to get the fluid into the tubing. He used apple juice, too orangy, and to get the juice into the tubing he had to over fill the bag. The result seen here is apple juice in bag, enlarged and in front. Wrong color and a way too big bag. (Am I to lug that around all day seeing patients?) So to get the color of the “urine” and the size of the bag to look right, I poured beer in a urine bag one morning at 7A.M. before surgery and Travis took a picture of that and superimposed the “corrected urine bag” on to the final cover for the book. Several medical-types that saw the initial picture, seen above, and immediately quipped, “Bags don’t get that full Dr. McHugh and urine ain’t that color. You need to fix that.” Beer and Travis Massey’s manipulations did the trick as seen on the Icehouse post.
The back cover is important to me in several respects. The top picture is of Lake Lanier in the midst of a drought in Northeast Georgia circa 2008. It was a rainy and cold day. The retracted lake accentuated the “big sky” look of the shot. The dock you see is one that was built for the Jessie Jewell family probably sometime in the 1960’s by Martin Boat Dock Company. It is a quonset hut type design that they popularized for this area and is now illegal to have unless it is “grandfathered in.” I have a picture of Jessie Jewell in the dock on his boat that was used for a dock show by the Martin Boat Dock Company in New York at that time. The cabin and property mentioned in “The Decision” is here. Jessie Jewell brought the chicken industry to Northeast Georgia. Our area is now the largest producers of processed chicken in the world and he was the man that started it all. The shower glass in the cabin has the letters, “J.J.” etched on them and it is something I cherish. I have a book about him in my exam rooms, his father committed suicide and was discovered by his brother. I have chairs in the cabin from his estate sale. As a patient that worked for him told me one time, ” Back in his day, I am telling you, he was blowing!” Jewell ultimately had to sell his business when the price of chicken went down and he closed the business. Another patient telling me about his driving around the country to pick up Jewell Chicken started to cry. There are cement bleachers facing the lake in front of the dock you see in the picture. He built these in the 50’s so the employee’s of his company could have a place to sit and eat at the annual Jewell July 4th company party.
The river picture is in on the Chattahoochee River just above Duncan Bridge Road in front of a little cabin I have there. It was taken by my brother Jeff who was in the midst of a divorce. Jeff would come up to fish to get his mind off the trauma of the situation. I have been fishing a thousand times with Chole and that kayak but had no pictures of myself from a distance fishing. I have a lot that I have taken of myself holding a fish but not like this one. I love it. The water, my dog, the river, the rods and the kayak provoke a really nice memory for me. I escaped there in diapers in the aftermath of the prostate cancer treatment. I mention it in the story at the end of the book entitled, ” John, I heard you got cancer!”
So now you know. The front cover, the dual nature of the urologist with a catheter and at the same time telling someone he has prostate cancer, the lake with the Jewell dock and location that I told my wife that I had had a prostate biopsy, and then the river and the memory of its saving grace to me and the comfort it gave my brother during a difficult time. Now you know the “rest of the story” about all the pictures on the book.
“What would you recommend to do for my prostate cancer if I were your father, Dr. McHugh?”
I am asked this question very often after telling a family that a biopsy shows prostate cancer. I almost anticipate it and have to be careful not to smile after hearing it; certainly a smile after delivering bad news would come across as inappropriate. The irony of the question is that I am not a big fan of my father. He left my mother and her five boys when I was in the seventh grade and moved to Alaska. (That he went to Alaska reminds me of Jonah rejecting God’s command to go to Nineveh. Jonah instead went to Tarshish; a location that was not only in the opposite direction but a “far and distant land.” I have often thought that Alaska was my father’s Tarshish.) I saw him only one time after that, when he showed up at my part-time job during the Christmas break of my freshman year in college. He quizzed me briefly about my grades, told me that his had been better at Auburn University, and then left. I never saw him again. After the divorce, my mother, brothers, and I moved to LaGrange, Georgia to live with my grandmother Bess Davis who was 73 at the time. Looking back on it, this was one of the best things that could have happened to me. LaGrange was a great place to grow up, I adored my mother and grandmother, and I feel that not having a father to depend on made me a stronger person. So, when the inevitable question comes up, I fight back the smile and answer the question as if it were a good one, in the context of a normal father-son relationship. Rarely, however, after failing to withhold the smile, I’ve said, “That really is not the best question to ask me in light of my past relationship with my father. Considering the part of the male anatomy urologists work on, you might not like what I would recommend.”
The window at the top left side of the house is partially opened or “cracked.” My mother smoked when she watched T.V. and blew the smoke out the window that was near the chair. She liked chocolate as well and would put the wrappers under that chair and then denied that she ate the chocolate or put the wrappers there. “I keep it cracked to listen for sirens and worry about my boys.” The house was a two bedroom, one bath house built in the 30’s. My grandmother, (her husband Robert Cooper Davis passed away in 1959), my mother and five boys all lived in that house.
My grandmother, LaGrange, my mother, and the house on 103 North Lewis that my grandfather bought in 1930….”Saved us.”
My grandfather was everything to me. He died, I think in 1959, I really did not know him. But… he was everything. In the picture above you can see the resemblance to two of my brothers, particularly Bob (the boy in the middle).
He was truely a man about town in LaGrange, Ga. He served in War World One in the Navy. He was a stud at North Ga College in 1907 in Dahlonega, Ga. How do I know this? Well. When I was a student at NGC on many occasions I would go into the library, ask for the librarian to open the locked historical showcase and get the 1907 North Georgia College yearbook. In that yearbook that I requested probably thirty times while I was at NGC, was a reference to my grandfather, Robert Cooper Davis.
He was one of the reasons I went to North Georgia College. Since I grew up with my grandmother, I was told stories about the times he was there. Two quotes come to mind that were attributed to my grandfather. One was my grandmother telling me that be prepared for the cold.
“Cooper used to tell me could always remember the ice creaking under the wagon wheels going back to Dahlonega in the winter.”
And then the one my mother told me about the economy in the area when I told her I was going to practice urology in Gainesville, Ga. (Thirty miles south of Dahlonega.)
In the clip below, when I mention history and reasons for attending NGC, my grandfather, despite me not remembering him-he died when I was around four, is one of the big reasons for me ending up in Dahlonega.
“Ye Gods John! You ain’t gonna make any money there. They so poor up there my father said they had to sew their clothes on in the winter to stay warm.”
From the 1907 North Georgia College Yearbook: ” Robert Cooper Davis, or as we referred to him as Lope Davis, the best football player of 1907 and the best dancer of the freshmen class of 1907.” He then received a football scholar ship to the University of Georgia and got a degree in Pharmacy.
My grandmother would kill a chicken each morning and make chicken salad sandwiches for the pharmacy and they sold for a nickle a piece.
My mother spent her high school years at 103 North Lewis Street and slept in the back bedroom (the one closest to the American Legion building which abutted the back right angle of the property). She shared the room with her younger sister Betsy. When I attended LaGrange High School 35 years later, this room had the very same carpet, wallpaper and beds. Depending on the time of year, which of the five boys were home and school schedules, all of the five McHugh boys rotated in and out of this bedroom as their room. If all were home and about, I slept in the very front room (television room closest to the street) on a cot that would fold up and be put away until the next night. There was an AC window unit in the television room, otherwise the house was cooled by a attic fan which we turned every night after it got cool. The trick was to “crack” the window next to the bed just right in order to feel the “draw.”
After high school my mother, Jennie Cooper went to Hunington College for girls in Montgomery, Alabama. She quit after her sophomore year to join the United States Coast Guard at the start of World War II much to the dismay and chagrin of her parents. Her sister Betsy attended Auburn much to the chargin of Robert Cooper a UGA alumni and football player.JohnMcHugh