WCU Chancellor resumes cancer treatment, stays committed to job

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Western Carolina University Chancellor David Belcher plans to resume treatment for cancer this week, some 16 months after doctors discovered a malignant brain tumor.

The cancer has returned, he announced Tuesday in an open letter addressed to the WCU community and friends. University officials provided the document to area news outlets.

Belcher said he and his wife Susan are optimistic about a new treatment regimen his doctors at Duke University Medical Center have recommended.

“We obviously are disappointed that there has been a recurrence, but know that I intend to attack this setback with the same fervor and passion with which I began this unexpected odyssey in April of last year,” he said.

In May, using WCU’s official website, Belcher shared then-recent news of a cancer-free checkup. At that time, he said he was scheduled for two remaining rounds of chemotherapy, with treatment ending in June. In addition to chemotherapy, the chancellor had surgery and underwent radiation therapy.

Additional details about the treatment, or the exact form of cancer Belcher faces, haven’t been released.

His announcement comes as WCU prepares to welcome thousands of students back to school. A student convocation is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 18. Classes start Monday, Aug. 21.

Belcher said his medical treatment would require his absence from campus several days each month. “I intend to fulfill my executive responsibilities even when I am not on campus,” he said. “My primary aim is that the campus community remain focused on our ambitious agenda of growth and positive momentum.”

WCU spokesman Bill Studenc said “the Catamount nation remains optimistic” the chancellor “will overcome this setback in his personal health. In the meantime, we are confident that the plan he and his leadership team have put into place will keep the university not only on an even keel, but moving forward in a positive direction as we begin a new academic year.”

 

Belcher's Letter in full:  

Dear WCU community and friends,

I write to share with you an update on my health. Despite last year's surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor and subsequent post-operative treatment, my latest medical examination has revealed a recurrence of the cancer. First, let me assure you that I feel fine. Susan and I are optimistic. We obviously are disappointed that there has been a recurrence, but know that I intend to attack this setback with the same fervor and passion with which I began this unexpected odyssey in April of last year. And – as my leadership team will attest – I am moving forward with the same dogged commitment and strategic approach that I strive to bring every single day in my job as CEO of our university.

My world-class medical team at Duke University Hospital has recommended a new treatment regimen, which I will begin this week. This new regimen is promising, but will require me to be away from campus several days each month.

As always, I am totally committed to my role as chancellor of Western Carolina University, and, with the support of my leadership team and that of the entire campus community, I intend to fulfill my executive responsibilities even when I am not on campus. My primary aim is that the campus community remain focused on our ambitious agenda of growth and positive momentum.

Over the past year, we have been blessed by an outpouring of love and support from our Catamount family, and it has buoyed Susan and me in this fight. We welcome your warm wishes, your thoughts, and your prayers, and we ask for your understanding if our responses to your messages are not as timely as you have come to expect from us.

It goes without saying that this is not the outcome for which we had hoped after my surgery and first rounds of treatment. However, my medical team is top-notch, and Susan and I are eager to begin this new treatment regimen. I pledge to keep you regularly informed about our progress and to provide you additional updates as we take the next steps in this journey.

Sincerely yours,
David O. Belcher

Smoky Mountain Times

Mailing Address:
PO Box 730
1 River Street
Bryson City, NC 28713 
Phone: 828-488-2189
Fax: 828-488-0315