When my wife Brenda and I moved as newlyweds to Marietta Georgia to attend Life University, we had no qualms about how difficult reaching our goals could be. My journey to becoming a Chiropractor would be a daunting task that comparatively few ever complete. What we didn’t know is that the battle that we would end up fighting while I completed my education would turn out to be much more difficult than we ever could have anticipated.
As we settled into our home, work, and college classes, life seemed to take on a new almost charmed rhythm filled with blessings, excitement, learning, and love. However, just one quarter into my studies, in July of 2009, we faced new challenges that would seem almost too much to bear. After a regular physical checkup and subsequent visits to a cancer specialist, I was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Cancer. We were immediately caught up in a whirlwind of hospital visits, tests, surgeries, and doctor visits familiar to all who have walked this road.
Upon learning of my diagnosis, there was a flood of questions and worries that pressed upon me. The doctors gave vague explanations. My wife and I were both heartsick for what this diagnosis meant for us. Would I be able to beat this dire cancer diagnosis? Would she become a widow in the first year of our marriage? One thing was for sure I was not giving up without a fight. With a new bride, a new home, and a new career path; I had too much to live for!
In October of 2001 Rhio O’Connor, when faced with a life threatening diagnosis with Mesothelioma, and given only months to live decided to get educated and started learning about his diagnosis and how to treat it. In his book “They Said Months, I Chose Years: A Mesothelioma Survivor’s Story” Rhio writes about his battle with cancer and how knowledge was the key for his surviving seven years longer than was expected. I chose to do the same. My life was hanging in the balance and I wanted to live. While slowing the emotional roller coaster and closing the door to the pessimistic dark corner of my mind, I went to work finding answers in a quest to save my life.
At first, information was slow coming. I was given a pamphlet at the doctor’s office and he spoke briefly about it but I needed more information. I started searching on the internet and was bombarded with miracle cure offers and carpet bagger elixirs for sale disguised as cures to cancer. As I waded through the information and researched deeper I found out that unlike Mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which is a cancer that attacks the lymph node system, is considered very treatable and my odds of surviving even a stage four diagnosis were still very good. I continued searching and talking to people who had survived the same diagnosis. I listened as they explained what worked and helped them or someone close to them become cancer free. I read and studied as much information as I could get my hands on to learn what it would take to get cured and then I researched to verify the validity of the information that I was given. I found it would not be easy; but, with proper treatment my prognosis was good.
After deciding on the treatment option that seemed best for me I consulted with friends who were professionals working in the cancer center at Boston Med. They helped me find highly skilled and highly rated surgeons and Oncologists who would work with me to cure my cancer. At Emory Hospital in Atlanta, we found an excellent surgeon. He performed surgery on me and following the operation I started chemotherapy in August of 2009.
The Chemotherapy treatment I chose had the highest percentage of success curing my type of cancer but the treatment left me reeling from the side effects and feeling more ill than I had ever been. I started to wonder if I had chosen correctly and I started looking more closely at the alternative treatments for cancer and what they could do to help me get through the treatments faster. Again, I turned to the internet and contacted people who had used the alternative medicines advertised. I asked my oncologist about the ones that I had chosen to incorporate into my regiment and even though he would not endorse what I was doing he said that they should have no negative effects on the chemotherapy.
Next we purchased a powerful blender. My wife and I spent weeks learning about how to make nutritious meals using organic raw foods that would fortify my body and help me recover faster. When we were instructed that I should not eat anything raw because of my weakened immune system, we searched for whole food nutritional supplements. They helped my body respond favorably by recovering faster from the treatments. In December after a checkup, I was informed that the cancer in my body had reduced by 80% and that if I continued with treatments and my nutrition regiment I should be cancer free by July.
It has been truly humbling to be introduced as a resident into the world of human tragedy that is the epidemic of cancer. The initial shock of knowing I would die if the cancer was left unchecked, and the ramifications that would have on those around me can only be equaled emotionally by my eventual healing and the joy of being cancer free for the rest of my life. As I have worked to keep up with my classes at school, I have found opportunities to interact and share my experiences with others; which has given them encouragement. Because of my diagnosis and treatment, I have been able to witness the fact that there are those going through cancer treatments at this time that are in need; but, are left to their own devises to survive. There is no reason that they should not receive the support we as a human family can give. As a result a web site, a non-profit charity aimed at the amelioration of suffering in the cancer community was formed by me and some friends in November 2009.
Every month as my wife and I struggle to cope with my treatment, I am reminded how blessed we are that she has employment, health insurance, and we have help from our families and friends. As I look around the room where I receive the chemotherapy treatments, I see people from all walks of life in various stages of their own treatment. Most are not as blessed as I am. I look at them as brothers and sisters and hope to be able to ease their burdens even if just a little. I am excited knowing that my own journey as a cancer patient, and future cancer survivor, will have a positive effect on others. It is good to know that like Rhio O’Connor my struggle with cancer will not have been in vain.