There is no explaining how you feel when your doctor says, “you have cancer.” This diagnosis was so overwhelming that I was not myself, and my temper, patience, and ability to reason effectively changed greatly. Not having much of a support network in town, other than close family, made it even more difficult to process.
My wife Kathy and I moved to Hilliard in early 2015 to be near our children and granddaughter. I had worked in industrial sales and banking during my career, and I retired from Charter One Bank at the end of 2011.
Kathy’s mom moved here with us, and she just turned 90. We had lived in Twinsburg, Ohio, for 35 years, so this was a big adventure for us! And while we were glad to be bringing our family together here in Columbus, we left behind our network of close friends and activities that we had enjoyed for a long time, and knew only a few new neighbors here.
Less than 18 months after moving here, I was diagnosed with Stage IV Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I had no idea that anything was wrong, except for a pain in my right hip that I thought to be a pulled muscle from one of my regular walks. The Stage IV part was due to the cancer becoming involved in my pelvic bone.
My first day of chemotherapy infusion was another moment etched in my memory. When that needle went in, it seemed to change me forever. I obviously was not ready for all of this, and without a network of local friends, I felt extremely alone, except for my family, of course.
My daughter, Laura, began searching for help for me, and she discovered Cancer Support Community Central Ohio. She came here first to register herself and set up my appointment. When I walked in, I felt extremely welcome. I sat with Jen (one of the social workers) to review my history. We talked (and cried a bit) about how few friends I had here in Columbus, and she presented the programs and resources that are available at Cancer Support Community.
It was like finding an oasis in the desert! Who knew all of this was available, at a time when I truly needed help? Instead of loneliness and despair, I had a new surge of hope that things would get better. My new motto became “No one can take away my Today!” I use this motto today and have used it every day since coming here for the first time. When God calls me home someday, I will give up “my Today” freely, but until then no one can take away my Today!
I started attending the Friday Tai Chi class, taught by Dan Lucas. Dan is an outstanding martial arts teacher and the extent of his knowledge is as amazing as his ability to perform Tai Chi. I learned that doing a type of twisting exercise causes the lymph nodes to bring wellness to the body, not disease like my lymphoma. I attended Dan’s class until my energy levels from the chemotherapy treatments and my very poor balance would not allow me to continue. I want to resume activities like Tai Chi, Qigong or yoga more actively very soon. All these activities are available at Cancer Support Community.
While I was receiving my chemotherapy treatments, my sister Anne became very ill in Florida, first with a disease called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, then a stroke, and then a diagnosis of cancer in her kidneys. Because my immune system had been compromised due to the chemotherapy treatments, I was not allowed to travel to see her in her time of need. I discussed this with Angie (Cancer Support Community’s program director). Angie was really there for me, and was extremely kind and understanding of my frustration of not being able to go see Anne. We discussed travel options when chemotherapy was over, and she gave me hope when cancer was trying to take my hope away. Anne passed away right after my last chemotherapy treatment, but I was able to attend her services in Florida with my family soon after.
The real story of Cancer Support Community is the essence of what Angie did for me, being there to listen to me about how cancer was affecting my life. This was also true when my best friend, Kevin, passed away a month later from the same cancer as my diagnosis. I was able to talk about it with Angie.
There are truly caring, loving people in this place and I wanted to be a part of this community that cares. Since the beginning of this year, I have been volunteering in the office on Friday afternoons, trying to help the staff with whatever needs to be done. And I have been proud to represent Cancer Support Community at several health fairs, “working the table” to help others discover this incredible group of caring people who can help them find a way to be strong, so that no one can take away their today either.
I want to thank our board members for all they do to make Cancer Support Community an exceptional resource for cancer survivors and their families and for those with no family, so that no one faces cancer alone. Without you, our programs like Cooking for Wellness, the Lunch & Learn programs, support groups, health fairs and many others, would not be available to be “discovered” and shared. Board member support magnifies the efforts of the wonderful caring people who work here to do what they do best, to provide hope to all who have heard or have been affected by the words “you have cancer.”
As for me, cancer continues to affect my life, and I currently attend cognitive behavioral therapy sessions to help me deal with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I am not one to admit weakness, so having to resolve these issues was a revelation to someone like me. But there are answers today for problems that were ignored many years ago, and that is a very good thing. Toughening up does not solve anything if help is needed. Angie and I have discussed these issues, and I know I can come here to discuss anything about cancer and its effects and be heard.
The best news for me is that my oncologist told me last week that I have no new metabolic activity on my recent CT scan and blood work, and my next appointment is in three months! No one can take away my Today!!!
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you today. God bless Cancer Support Community Central Ohio.