Editor’s Note: This piece was submitted by a contributing writer and does not represent the views of CURE Media Group.
My wish is for a person who has just been diagnosed or is living with cancer to not lose hope. One can survive many years with this disease. We also most know that having cancer is nothing to be ashamed of, almost all families have been touched by this, so it’s OK. Also, a person has more options to defeat this disease!
In May of 2001, at 47 years old, I was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma. The cancer had spread from its originating spot on my back to the lymph nodes under my left arm. When told this, I was stunned; it felt so surreal. With a wife and two children ages 17 and 20 I was like, “Oh my! Now what? I don’t want to leave my family.”
My first goal was to understand what I had, and then to get that very important second opinion. I also wanted to share this information with our church family. I really needed the prayers to help me along my path. The diagnosis from my second opinion matched the original diagnosis, which now meant I needed to find an acceptable form of treatment. With a certain type of chemotherapy being the only option in Iowa and my doctor sharing that this treatment has nasty side effects as well as low success rates, I was not fired up for this type action. Still, my local doctor recommended this. It was time for my family and me to do some investigating into other options. After scans, a couple surgeries to remove the tumor, and a lot of prayers, I was ready for the next step in my healing process. We looked online and made several phone calls to various cancer treatment centers.
After much thought and prayer, it was determined that my best option laid in Bethesda, Maryland at the National Cancer Institute. After my consultation visit, I was accepted into a clinical trial. The goal of the treatment was to bolster my immune system so that it could fight off any new melanoma cells. This type treatment sure made sense to me. The medical team was very high on this fairly new type of treatment called immunotherapy. To say the least, I was excited and ready to start this program.
I was to receive this treatment once a week for several weeks. This meant several trips from Iowa. My team did say all recipients of this treatment did receive the actual medicine, which made me feel better. The group there made me feel like I was an important part of the team. This staff seemed to do what they could to keep my visits a bit less stressful by keeping things light-hearted and still being professional. Wow, I really felt like I had a decent chance to survive!
Now 15 years later, I’m alive and doing well! I look at life differently. I enjoy life a lot more than I used to! I’ve been able to see my children get married, have fun with three grandchildren with one on the way, enjoy time with my wife and have been able to retire from my job.
I can’t express how important it is to explore options, especially if you’re not happy with what’s offered by your local professionals. It IS worth exploring to see what may be available. Also, I know the prayers of our church members, family and friends made a huge difference. May you never lose hope!