EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Three months ago yesterday, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman revealed he has lymphoma. He has since endured several rounds of chemotherapy, and the cancer is now in remission.
But Gettleman is not the only member of the organization battling the fearsome disease. Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey today spoke publicly for the first time about his recent diagnosis and ongoing treatment for cancer.
"This past offseason, they found a growth in my bowel duct. In that growth was cancer," said McGaughey, 45. "They removed it. I had a very extensive procedure called a whipple procedure. During the whipple, they found a cancer in one of my lymph nodes. I've been doing chemotherapy for about the last two months. I'm going on my fifth treatment, and it's going good."
Moments later, he said, "It was good fortune (that doctors found the cancer). Actually, I had two bouts with sepsis. They went in with the little endoscopy. When they did it, they saw the mass. The mass is kind of how I found out."
McGaughey has occasionally missed practice to receive treatment. When he does, assistants Anthony Blevins and Tom Quinn (the coordinator the previous 11 seasons who returned to the staff in the spring) run the special teams periods in practice.
"I have a couple more treatments left," McCaughey said. "…I had a scan, it was in Hackensack, three weeks ago. It was fine."
McGaughey said it helps him having Gettleman to commiserate with.
"We share our chemotherapy stories and talking about the medications and all that stuff," he said. "We definitely have our conversations. Dave is a great man. It is what it is. We just got to fight through it and keep moving."
McGaughey underwent surgery and has many of his treatments in Houston, his hometown and where his family still lives.
"I go down, I do my treatment, I come back," he said. "That's what it is. Last time did it, I had an extra day because it was the fourth preseason game. So I had a little time. The next treatment, I'll go down, do the treatment, then I'll come right back.
"It's chemo and I take pills every day. So just chemo pills, treatment, chemo pills, then I take a week off."
Coach Pat Shurmur has been pleased with McGaughey's progress and performance.
"He's been doing a good job," Shurmur said. "We brought in Tom Quinn to back him up on those days that are tough days for him. But T-Mac's been doing a good job and he's got our guys ready to play."
But that doesn't mean McGaughey hasn't encountered a few bumps on his road to recovery. Coaching football is a demanding job that requires long hours of work. It can sap the strength of even the healthiest people, and can be particularly difficult for those under chemo.
"It's tough," he said. "As a football coach, you don't think about this stuff. You get up, you do what you do, and live life. I'm not going to let any chemotherapy or cancer or anything else get in the way of what I do. I'm a football coach. I'm a father and a football coach, and that's what I do. I got to get up every day. Nobody cares. They're not going to feel sorry for you. It's get up, go to work, and you got to earn your paycheck."
On the field, McGaughey has kicker Aldrick Rosas, punter Riley Dixon, and numerous candidates to return punts and kickoffs. Shurmur has left open the possibility that Odell Beckham, Jr. and Saquon Barkley will handle some of those duties. How would McGaughey react if Shurmur told him Beckham will return punts and Barkley the kickoffs?
"Thank God," he said, laughing. "Pretty simple. With a huge smile. You see how big it is now?"
Just being on the field now is enough for McGaughey to smile. But he didn't doubt he'd be ready for the season, even after receiving the initial diagnosis.
"There was never a thought in my mind," he said. "I'm sure my doctor's mind, though – my family's mind, my wife I'm sure had a bunch of thoughts. In my mind, I never even thought of that."
*Shurmur said he is pleased with the team's performance in practice.
"Prep's been good," he said. "I thought yesterday was great. They struggle through the heat, which is good. They really pressed through the heat. We got a lot of good work done. Every mistake that we made we can correct."
*Three linebackers are the only players on the Giants' injury report. Olivier Vernon (ankle) and Tae Davis (hamstring) did not practice. Lorenzo Carter left practice early with an illness.