EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 3, 2013

Grateful man thinking of organ donor

LOWELL (AP) — It’s quite possible that cancer was what saved Tom McKay’s life.

For sure, a strange way of rationalizing a bad situation. Then again, that’s the kind of man McKay is.

To say the 66-year-old general manager of the Lowell Memorial Auditorium is a positive soul is akin to saying the sun is bright. In both cases, blindingly so.

McKay’s diagnosis 13 years ago of Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare form of skin cancer, means he’s constantly seeing his doctor for checkups. At age 53, he bested that setback quickly.

His next health hurdle was not as timid.

It was during one of those routine checkups when McKay took a trip through a CT scanner that doctors discovered two spots on his liver. That was March of 2010.

“That was a very tough day,” McKay recalled in a recent interview. “I was about as down as I could possibly be.”

McKay is upbeat even as he talks about one of the worst days of his life. As he spoke to a reporter inside an empty auditorium hall, McKay flashed that Irish smile that has won over city managers, business partners and regular strangers for decades. He paused to collect his thoughts and gazed out to the auditorium’s center floor, where the boxing ring was set up for the Golden Gloves tournament.

“I am almost shaking now, telling you about this,” McKay said as he began telling the story about his fight to live and his love of someone he’ll never meet.

McKay said his liver cancer was caused by an inherited disease called hemochromatosis, a condition in which the bloodstream is overloaded with iron. It’s one of the most common genetic diseases in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. The condition can result in cirrhosis of the liver.

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