In August of 2010, I was a truck driver at Walmart when I was checking my 64-foot truck from nose to back. I starting panting, I couldn’t really breathe, had chills- I felt like I was coming down with something. It was hard for me to pull myself into the cab of the truck. The next day I went home and talked to my wife about it and we decided that we would wait until Monday morning to call the doctor if it got worse. On Saturday night I woke up shaking with chills. We went to the ER and they ran tests, did an ekg, drew blood and a chest x-ray. The result was slight traces of pneumonia. Since I was still having trouble breathing, the doctor ordered a CT scan of my lungs. They saw that I had a mass in the upper lobe of my right lung. I went to Elmira to see a pulmonologist. He told me that I had a 2.5 centimeter tumor in the upper lobe of my right lung. After a bronchoscopy, it was determined that I had small cell lung cancer. Next I saw a oncologist who did more scans and found that the cancer had metastasized to my liver. He said I could live 10 months with treatments, or 6 months without treatment. It’s now been 17 months.
I had my first chemo treatment on October 13th, 2010, which took place every three weeks for 18 weeks that then turned into radiation. After about a month of chemo drugs resulting in mouth sources, nausea and pain, I got the good news that it was working and my tumor had shrunk by 2/3 of its size. Post chemotherapy, I got 2 weeks of radiation. The radiation caused my eyes to water badly, and I got a rash on the outside of my eyelids and my eyesight got very blurry.
On January 4th, 2012 I had a routine CT scan and they found new lesions in my right lung and the lymph nodes between my lungs. The good thing is that my brain and liver results were clean. However, this meant I was starting chemo again. Surprisingly enough it was kind of nice going back and seeing all the doctors and people I had met the first time around. The doctor prescribed 6 rounds of chemo. A little bit after my second round of chemo, the doctor said that he had found a very small trace of cancer in my liver. Whatever it is, we will deal with it like we did the first time, was my attitude. That was February 7th of this year.
The cancer has caused me to retire earlier than I would have. I couldn’t drive anymore. I’ve done my best to battle it and have a good attitude. It won’t do me any good to sit here and holler how unfair it is; instead I decided that I am going to have fun with it. I wear my large plush Frankenstein slippers around when I am getting chemo.
I had my first day of chemo on October 13, 2010. People started explaining everything to me and Bob introduced himself and said that I ought to come down to Friday’s morning Breakfast Club. The rest is history. I try not to miss any of the Breakfast Club meetings. I go because I am able to talk to some people with the same situation or talk about nothing to do with cancer. The Cancer Resource Center and my wife are honestly what have gotten me through this. I now volunteer at the Cancer Resource Center to give back. I also attend a meeting for people with chronic cancer on every 1st and 3rd Thursday. Additionally, I’ve helped out with the walkathon 5k run that the Cancer Resource puts on every year.
I have kept a journal of my experience since October 1st, 2010. I write about how I feel and joke around a bit in it. I feel that I have been lucky; I know that I have a terminal disease. The first year I had nausea, mouth sores and fatigue, the second time it has not been nearly as bad. I think I’ve had it pretty easy compared to a lot of the guys, wait until you hear some of their stories.
My advice is to read Bob’s book, The Elephant in the Room. Everything you would ever want to know is in that book. You’ll be trained through the cancer process so just roll with them and let them help you. The people at the Cancer Resource Center are so great. I never would have chosen to have cancer, but it has been a good experience because of all the folks I’ve met. Everyone from the infusion lab, the radiation lab, the oncology office, the imaging department, the hospital lab and the CRC has been wonderful. It has been a very unique experience. I can’t do anything about what is going to happen, it’s just going to happen. I decided that I am going to have fun with everything I do.
Cancer definitely makes you older and wiser. I now want to give back and bring a smile to other people’s faces. If I die of a heart attack, I would have survived cancer so I am going to keep knocking it down, and each additional day is a gift. I always loved the sunrise, but now the sun has a lot more meaning to me. I still camp and we have a boat that I love to go fishing on. We have a trailer and I look forward to our trip every summer.