The following is excerpted from my speech at the Subway Race Against Cancer Team Captain Kickoff Luncheon on Thursday, August 27, 2015:
I found out this week that I’m “over the hump.”
Those are the words my surgeon used during my every-six-month checkup on Monday.
I’m over the hump because I’ve made it three years since cancer surgery and, well, I’m still here. I haven’t had a cancer recurrence. In the words of my surgeon: I am a miracle. I am Superman. I am alive.
Two years ago, during a similar checkup, he wasn’t at all sure that would be the case. “You’re not supposed to be here,” he said. “You’re not supposed to be this well.” He wanted to see me often, he said, because the odds were stacked against me. My risk of recurrence hovered around 80 percent.
The risk of recurrence was so high because at the age of 43 I was diagnosed with stage-3b rectal cancer. An aggressive undifferentiated adenocarcinoma. The tumor was discovered during a colonoscopy. I’d been experiencing some really funky digestive systems for a few months. Then there was blood where there shouldn’t be blood. Not a good sign.
My medical team threw everything at me but the kitchen sink: 55 days of oral chemotherapy combined with 28 sessions of radiation therapy. I will spare you details about the impact of radiation treatment on sensitive body parts. Suffice it to say, it was not pleasant. Radiation and oral chemo were followed by surgery, then six months of infused chemotherapy.
It was a long, sometimes very difficult 11 months of treatment. Before it was all over, I had a permanent colostomy and persistent neuropathy in my hands and my feet. I often cannot feel the ground beneath my feet. Not that any of it has stopped me from enjoying an amazing life.
- This year alone has been pretty phenomenal.
- I finished the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon.
- I threw out a first pitch at a Tennessee Smokies Game.
- I launched a web site.
- I published my book, It’s Not Harder Than Cancer. A percentage of all sales supports the Subway Race Against Cancer.
- I launched a line of T-shirts, the sales of which also support the Race Against Cancer.
- I had my first book signing.
- I’m training for a Spartan Race
- I was asked to chair the Subway Race Against Cancer.
How could I say no to that last one? My incredible medical team at Thompson Cancer Survival Center medical team took great care of me. If I had to get cancer, I am glad I was treated at Thompson. When you hear the phrase “Survival: it’s in our name,” I’m living proof.