Surviving Four Cancer Diagnoses


I didn’t expect to be diagnosed with cancer, never mind end up with four diagnoses over the years. Here is what I learned along the way.

blurred hospital hallway with clinicians walking through

"I tolerated the six rounds of an aggressive chemo regiment very well maintaining a good diet with lots of fruit and veggies and staying well hydrated."

My cancer journey began a little over 16 years ago just after turning 60 years old. I had always been of good health other than the usual aches and pains from playing a lot of sports through the years. The lump I felt in my groin while showering reminded me of a lipoma I had on my back, which was nothing more than a benign fatty mass. This lump was different in that it was growing at a fast pace which wasn’t the case with my lipoma.

I contacted my family doctor, but it was at year’s end, and he couldn’t take me in until the new year. Over that three-week waiting period, other masses began to develop and became cause for concern. Upon meeting my doctor, he found several masses I couldn’t detect and with a blood screening, he diagnosed my condition as lymphoma.

I was in the dark on what I was dealing with, so I bought an excellent book on lymphoma and began doing my research. At the time there were over 30 different types of lymphoma with varying treatments and outcomes. Following my initial visit with my hematologist/oncologist and a biopsy, my diagnosis was diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), an aggressive type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but one that had a favorable long-term prognosis.

I tolerated the six rounds of an aggressive chemo regiment very well maintaining a good diet with lots of fruit and veggies and staying well hydrated. I tried to exercise daily, even if only for short daily hikes. Mostly I spent time outdoors in nature which provided some added comfort through the journey. After nearly five months of treatment, I was found to be in remission.

The lymphoma intervention prepared me for the years to come and three more cancer diagnoses. I learned the importance of listening to my body. For years, I would expose myself to whirlpools with high chlorine that resulted in rashes to my lower extremities that continued to get worse. Several years earlier I stepped into a whirlpool that was being “shocked” and scalded myself from the groin on down. There were no signs warning patrons to stay out of the pool. I may have caused some DNA damage that I was unaware of from the repeated exposure.

I also learned the importance of doing research on treatment options and outcomes. Having good health insurance was also of great importance in being able to seek out the best medical care available. Not all plans allow visits to some facilities.

Finally, I can’t emphasize the importance of finding the best caregivers available, even if it means driving an extra mile.

With the knowledge I gained from my lymphoma experience, I was able to deal with prostate cancer four years after my lymphoma diagnosis. I had radical prostatectomy, and all is going well. Six years later I was diagnosed with tongue cancer, but the extensive treatment was not needed as when I sought out a second opinion, I found the original diagnosis was in error. Finally, at the onset of the pandemic over three years ago, I was diagnosed with bladder cancer and following surgery and an immunotherapy treatment plan, I’m now cancer free.

I continue to monitor all my cancer diagnoses with regular blood work and some procedures. One is never free of cancer once diagnosed. During my travels through my cancer maze, I read a wonderful book, “Anti-Cancer, a New Way of Life” that was written by a brain cancer survivor who followed a lifestyle filled with nature to meditate, exercise and a good diet. All three aimed at keeping the immune system strong. This book is my self-advocacy bible and keeping me immune system strong.

My wife and I follow the guidelines very close. With a loving wife and family of two sons, daughter-in-law and two granddaughters who are 4 and 7, we want to be around a long time to come. At 76, I remain very active with downhill skiing and had a “dream-come-true” skiing trip with both my little ones this past winter.

All my pathology tests for my cancer diagnosis were made at the same hospital in Ann Arbor. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a good pathology department on your team. If ever I have a relapse or new diagnosis of cancer, I know I’m in good hands with my caregivers which provides me great relief.

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