This is long overdue. I’ve been meaning to create a blog since about June and it’s just been hard to get motivated while going through the ups and downs of battling cancer and doing chemo.
Where to begin? I was diagnosed with colon cancer on March 27th, 2015. It was through a phone call from My Surgeon. I was finally home from the hospital fighting to recover from bowel surgery and ileostomy surgery, and this devastating news hit hard. What a complete nightmare. I’m sure people reading this have received life-altering news before and know how hopeless you feel in that instant.
When he told me I had cancer I was speechless and had to get my wife to talk to the doctor. She was able to pull it together enough to get more information.
It was Stage 3 cancer. Lymph nodes were positive; however, they were fairly sure the margins were clear and all the cancer was out. I didn’t even know how the stages of cancer worked at that time, but I knew it wasn’t good. I remember when my wife repeated the doctor’s words in disbelief, “Stage 3c”, that I just broke down sobbing. The very first though that went through my head was “I’m not going to make it to Christmas”. I don’t know why that jumped into my head, but it was the first negative cancer thought that attacked my body.
Heather and I started calling family and telling them the news. It is really tough to tell your mom, dad, brothers and friends that you have cancer. However, during those calls something hit me hard. A positive thought from 6 years ago. When I received the call about cancer, I was standing in the exact same spot where I received a call about how I could never have kids. My sperm weren’t healthy (from taking Crohn’s Disease drugs most likely) and unless we had help through IVF and used donor sperm, Heather and I would never have kids.
That crushed both Heather and my spirits at the time. But if anyone knows our story, we have two 5-year-old twins today. We went through one IVF cycle and Heather was pregnant without the use of donor sperm. The important thing to note here is Heather had some infertility issues too, but through a healthy lifestyle, she was able to prepare her body to get pregnant.
I tend to believe in coincidence more than divine intervention, but this time I knew I had that thought for a reason at a time where negativity was winning the battle inside my head.
“I was told I’d never have my own kids, but today we are two healthy children.”
The negativity did start to take control again. A few days later I was back in the hospital for a week for abscesses from surgery. I was given a PICC line and sent home with daily antibiotics to take. They also did another CT scan during that time and saw some lesions on my liver. A few weeks later I went in for a liver biopsy and awaited the test results.
Heather was at the kid’s school for their entrance exams when I received more bad news. The cancer had spread. Stage 4. I now have two tumors on my liver. I sat down and sobbed on the floor. I didn’t tell Heather until she got back home. I didn’t want to ruin the kid’s first memory or Heather’s memory of school. The emotions I went through alone that day were pretty intense. We had so many people praying. We were changing my lifestyle and doing so much to help fight cancer. The margins were clear. This can’t be happening.
Well, it was happening.
However, the more you research cancer the more you realize that those tumors were already there. I had a colonoscopy in 2013 and they saw inflammation from IBD, but no cancer. My cancer had grown in two years and metastasized. Adenocarcinoma is known as an aggressive cancer and it spread quickly.
I was scared. Not of dying really, but of leaving Heather and the kids. I don’t want my kids to grow up without a father and I don’t want Heather to be a widow. It ate me up inside thinking that I was inevitably going to die and leave them here without me.
The few weeks before we were able to start any conventional treatment was pretty terrible. I was angry. Thank God for Heather, who was doing all she could to research how to get me better. She really is the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I’m lucky I have her and I should tell her that way more often than I do.
We found our first oncologist and it didn’t go very well. We asked him about diet and lifestyle changes, as well as alternative therapies, like hyperbaric oxygen, acupuncture and IV vitamin C. His response was “Don’t be stupid and believe in all that voo doo magic! It doesn’t matter what you eat or what you do. Chemo is the only thing that will help you.” After my wife stormed out of the office we quickly scheduled a new appointment with a different oncologist.
Our new doctor was much more open to alternative treatments but still said he thought chemo was my best option. We talked about it and then agreed to start.
Cancer is such a scary diagnosis. The instant you hear you have cancer, or you have a gene that could cause cancer later in your life, you panic. You rush into treatment or surgery and you do what the doctors tell you to do.
I remember my first chemo treatment like it was yesterday. The nurse talked to me about all the various side effects I would experience and then broke out the rubber gloves and hazmat suit to administer the drugs. If these drugs touch your skin they will eat away your flesh, and here I am putting these into my body.
FOLFOX with Avastin was the gold standard for my cancer. I did it because it was cancer. I felt I had to try to fight it naturally at home and then with these big drugs at the hospital. I was doing so many alternative therapies at home: juicing carrots/beets/celery/ginger every day, vegan diet, Essiac Tea, Apricot Seeds, Liver detox droppers, CBD oil, chemo detox baths, castor oil presses, etc. When we decided to do chemo and researched how it affects the body, we knew we’d have to hit it hard with detox and other natural therapies too. What I didn’t know is how incredibly hard it would be to eat once the chemo is in your system.
Heather and I fought every morning trying to get me to eat my oatmeal. All I wanted to do was throw up everything I ate and crawl into bed. I’m lucky she was so persistent to tell me what I had to do, because I might not be here and doing pretty well if it wasn’t for her.
I went through 3 rounds of chemo and had a CT scan. Positive news… my tumors were shrinking. Ok… I can do this. I went through 4 more rounds and things were tough, but the tumors were shrinking and everything we were doing was working. Then chemo #8 came and it was pretty miserable. It took me over a week to feel normal, while the previous rounds only took a few days. Then chemo #9 came with an even stronger vengeance and I was bedridden. I easily lost 10-15 pounds and wouldn’t eat or get out of bed for two weeks. In the midst of feeling terrible, I had another CT scan.
I went to the doctor to get the results and the tumors shrunk again and one of the two wasn’t even visible anymore. The doctor said the treatment was working. But he was concerned at how I was feeling. I was scheduled for 12 rounds of chemo and all of us thought it was time for a break. Doing 9 out of the 12 doesn’t really increase the chances of living longer so he said it was fine to stop and start maintenance chemotherapy. I asked him what that meant and he said I would have to still do the same IV chemo every two weeks until I lost the fight against the cancer.
This was the first time he ever told me my future diagnosis. I would never hold the “I Am Cancer Free” sign on Facebook. I would never be able to call my mom or dad or brothers or friends to say I’m cancer free. My prognosis was I would do chemo for the rest of my life until my life was over.
I knew stage 4 was basically terminal already, but I still had hope. With those few words that day, my oncologist made me realize how much cancer sucks and how there is no conventional cure. Chemo works well with blood cancers, but with colon cancer the numbers aren’t very good. There have been no new colon cancer drugs made since 1960. Why? It’s because all the talk about curing cancer is at the forefront of the pharmaceutical industry instead of prevention. When you donate to Susan B Komen or the thousands of other cancer organizations, the money that actually goes to cancer research is very, very low. Why? Why haven’t they made strides in cancer treatment since 1960? It makes no sense.
I chose to stop chemo because I literally thought chemo #10-12 would kill me. Round #9 took about 4 weeks to fight. I felt terrible for a long time. How could I take it every 2 weeks for the rest of my life? I made a decision to fight this naturally that day because I want to be here, awake and happy with my family for the rest of my life and not throwing up and wasting away in bed the rest of my life.
Big decisions happen every day in our lives. Where should we work? Where should we live? Should we have another child? These decisions pale in comparison to the decision to forego chemotherapy when dealing with a cancer diagnosis. I was firm in my decision but doubt was there in the back of my head. Was I making the right decision? How would I know what I should do?
That night a 9-part documentary was airing online called “The Truth about Cancer: A Global Quest.” A filmmaker took us on a journey over the next nine days about what other countries do to fight cancer. Chemo isn’t pushed as hard in other countries and alternative therapies show great success curing cancer, even stage 4 cancer. The amount of information provided in that documentary was overwhelming. Heather and I had an answer that night if we were doing the right thing.
Will I ever do chemo again? Probably not. Chemo is palliative with my diagnosis. But it was working! Yes, chemo does shrink tumors, but it does so much harm at the same time to everything else. When a hazmat suit is required to administer it, it has to be doing some harm in your body. Also, if cancer returns, it’s usually more aggressive and that specific chemo no longer helps.
We all have cancer cells in our body. The best way to kill a cancer stem cell is with your immune system. So many other countries attack cancer much differently than the U.S. does. We want a pill for every problem we have instead of taking a step back and realizing we’re sick because we aren’t eating or living right. We need a healthy immune system to fight cancer, plain and simple. Chemo murders your immune system. Why aren’t we putting more money into immune boosting treatments? Why are still using drugs from 1960 to fight cancer? Where is the technological advancement to fighting cancer?
I believe I can beat this disease without chemotherapy. It will take a lot of hard work and dedication to being as healthy as I can be and doing things no one really wants to do. There is no quick fix. I have time to fight this naturally and I will win.
I will beat cancer.
I’m no longer scared of cancer. Or dying.
I am greater than cancer.
I’ll be updating this blog probably weekly with things I am doing to fight cancer. It is more of my own personal journal, but I hope it helps people know there are other things you can do, even during chemo, to help your body heal. Immune health begins in our gut. If we aren’t feeding it the things it needs to power the immune system, we will get sick, plain and simple.
I am also starting a T-shirt fundraiser today. Everyone I know has been so generous. I am so beyond thankful for the gifts at the bowling fundraiser and on my gofundme site. I just again humbly ask for help with paying for some of these expensive alternative treatments that aren’t covered by insurance. Or if all you can do is share it on Facebook, I would be so grateful for that as well. I need 29 shirt orders in order to make any money from this. My goal is to sell over 500 shirts in 21 days. They cost $20 for adults and $15 for kids. They’ll ship after the fundraiser is over. You can visit the fundraiser site by clicking on the link to your left or the link in this article. https://www.bonfirefunds.com/iamgreaterthan
The words on the shirt are something anyone can relate with. Whether you are fighting cancer or another disease, you are greater than it. I believe in positive thinking, now more than ever. I say out loud every day that I am greater than cancer and I believe it.
What are you greater than?