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My Friend’s Story on Cancer

Photo by Jordan Winders

Every year during St. Jude week here at WBKR, we hear stories of St. Jude and the amazing work that they do. And every year I think about what those patients go through.

While I have heard many of the stories, I have always wondered what it takes to give a person the strength to fight the incredibly difficult battle. So this year I decided to sit down with one of my best friends and find out.

My best friend, James, has fought the battle with cancer. And every year he comes in to support the work of St. Jude. While he wasn’t as young as the St. Jude patients, he was still fairly young when he started his battle.

James just celebrated 9 years of remission, and with the Radiothon approaching, I decided to sit down and get his story, to try to see a little more about how someone handles the fight.

James was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer back in 2004 at the age of 23. His fight started in July of 2004, although he noticed the problem months before. One of the things he pointed out at this point was how he probably shouldn’t have waited the months that he did before seeing a doctor. And one of the things he hopes that others will remember is if you have a problem; don’t wait to get checked out.

Back to James’ story. James noticed problems in April of 2004 and ended up going to the doctor the end of July 2004. The doctor did an ultrasound the day James went in, to find out what the problem was. A few day later, August 3, 2004 James went in for the results and was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer. The doctor wanted to schedule him for surgery as quickly as possible, and set him up for surgery on August 10th. As with most surgeries, James was supposed to go do all the pre-op work-ups, paperwork, etc. the doctor told him to go after the appointment where he was diagnosed, but instead he went to his car to process what he was just told and ended up going home. I asked James why he didn’t go to pre-op, and he said it was something he never really thought about. But looking back he said it was probably because he was still thinking that it wasn’t real and he didn’t want to face it. He also said it could have been because he of his age and mentality.

August 10th rolled around and James went in for his surgery, still in the mindset that this wasn’t real, and that it couldn’t be happening. The surgery went as planned to remove the tumor. It was after coming out of surgery that reality started to sink in that he was battling cancer. I asked James what went through his mind, and he said it was a mix of emotions, but he knew it was real, and that there were times he didn’t know if he was going to make it through.

Ten days after surgery, James went back for a follow up, where they scanned to make sure they had gotten all of the cancer. Unfortunately, he did not receive good news. The scan showed that the cancer had spread to the Lymph nodes in his abdomen. One of the things that James remembers vividly was what his doctor said. The doctor said he only had about a 20% chance to live, and to save him the doctor said he was going to have to “kill” him and bring him back to life. The news was a huge shock, and made James realize that this was going to be a tough, if not impossible fight.

Labor Day 2004, James started Chemotherapy. About halfway through Chemo, James moved from Bowling Green to Owensboro, and started seeing a different doctor. Around Thanksgiving of that year, the doctor told him that the tumor had doubled in size. In the middle of December, James met with the doctors to discuss going to Indianapolis for surgery. December 14th, 2004 James underwent a 6 hour surgery to remove the 7 pound tumor.

It would be a little over a month before James would meet with the doctors to find out if all of the cancer was gone. On January 17th James met with his doctor in Owensboro and was told that he was in remission. On January 21st, James met with the doctors in Indianapolis to confirm that he was in remission.

I asked James what were the effects of the events on him. He said that as you see with anyone with cancer, it didn’t just weigh on him, but it had a big impact on his family. During the fight with cancer, James was married, but his wife couldn’t handle the stress and shorty after James last surgery, his wife ended up leaving him. He said that it also put a strain on his mother and family.

James said one of the biggest things was that cancer changed him in a variety of ways. It changed his mentality, made him less of an arrogant young man, and in some ways he said, cancer could have been the best thing that happened to him. James said it took a lot of fight, mental and physical, and as mentioned before, not just on him.

I asked him how he approached the fight, and he said at first he fought fighting. He was going to fight because “nothing was wrong with him”.  But after it sank in, he had moments where he didn’t want to fight, and moments where he wanted to fight like there was no tomorrow. One of the things that helped he said was that the doctor that did his second surgery was the same doctor that did Lance Armstrong’s surgery.

I asked him if he had any words to share with anyone fighting cancer or with a family member fighting cancer and he said the following: “Make sure you have an amazing support system. It takes a lot of fighting, and you have to have some one to fall back on. And make sure you spend as much time as possible with those who mean the most to you. And to everyone else, don’t take anything for granted.”

You can help those fighting by helping the St. Jude Radiothon tomorrow and Friday on WBKR.

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