My doctors told me in 2012, that I was the only male, five-time cancer survivor in the Western Hemisphere. Surviving cancer once, twice, maybe three times may be rare, but five times is simply unheard of. The capability of a human being to survive is beyond explainable. We have all heard about survival instinct, but until you are put into a survival situation you have no idea what that saying actually means. I am told I am truly a remarkable fighter as I have beaten cancer FIVE times, and I now suffer from Lupus and Alzheimer's. But I have beaten any and all expectations to reach my 53rd birthday! I am still fighting despite enduring a multitude of cancer operations, including two my surgeons thought I would not even survive. I have every wicked surgery scar to remind me of my multiple battles with different types of cancer.
I am a father and grandfather from McDonough, Georgia who has fought through many medical issues. My health issues began when I was diagnosed with an acute cancerous appendix at the ripe age of 17, I required emergency surgery just before the organ would have ruptured, causing fatal infection to my body. Appendix cancer tends to be rare, affecting an estimated 600 to 1,000 Americans each year. Unfortunately, appendix cancer often remains undiagnosed, like mine was, until my emergency surgery. Appendix cancer mysteriously has no known cause. At the time I had no idea I would wrestle with cancer a second time because I had always been a physically active person. A few months after the emergence of appendix cancer, I had several episodes of pain in the upper right quadrant of my abdomen. I thought I may have gallstones and decided to avoid high-fat foods because a high-fat diet increases gallstone risk.
Later that year, however, I started having nausea that became constant. I was also having some coronary artery issues and was scheduled to have several stents surgically inserted. It was in the recovery room after the cardiac stent procedures when I felt unbearable pain in my midsection. My doctor ordered an abdominal ultrasound, which showed irregular thickening of my gallbladder walls. They couldn't rule out carsinoma, but a surgical specialist reassured me that cancer was highly unlikely. He had operated on thousands of gallbladder surgeries and rarely saw gallbladder cancer. He reassured me it was very rare, and if I had it then I would probably be dead by now. My surgeon removed my enlarged gallbladder laparoscopically, but the news wasn't great. Unfortunately, the pathology came back showing T2 gallbladder cancer. I fought the disease by having my cancerous bladder removed before the cancer could invade my entire system. I went into surgery hoping to live two years. My wife and five chihuahuas have been very supportive during my treatment. My wife is a blessing to me, always being so supportive and making sure I stayed positive.
Two years later, I went to a dermatologist to have a mole examined. I have also been blessed with a condition called "displastic nevi syndrome," meaning I have a higher risk for skin cancers than most people. My moles are darker than average and can tend to turn into the deadly malignant melanoma. Two shave biopsies were performed on my moles and pathology tests showed very deep Breslow depths with tumors present in deep margins as well as peripheral. An oncology team referred me to a general surgeon after reviewing my poor prognosis. With deadly stage 4 malignant melanoma, a wide excision surgery was the only radical treatment which would attack and remove the cancer. It is a miracle in itself to survive a stage 4 cancer attack. The cancer left my back looking like a cruel battleground of scars. The surgeon cut as deep as possible, but still did not know if he got it all. I would have to be examined for the rest of my life for the possible return of the deadly malignant melanoma cancer.
The toughest one yet was the renal cell carsinoma kidney cancer surgery." Having a kidney removed was the most difficult of any of the cancer surgeries. Only one year prior, I was forced to have my left leg surgically sawed in half and almost amputated because of infection, to remove a malignant bone tumor lodged in the center of my leg bone. The recovery period for those two surgeries was intense and lengthy. My body is marked with scars all over. A major skin graft was taken from my upper thigh tissue to cover the wide excision scars on my back. Somehow I fought through these cancer surgeries with prayer and perseverance. I remember after after one operation, I opened my eyes and the surgeon told me the operation was over, but wasn't certain if I would pull through, due to serious infection concerns. My multiple cancer diagnoses don't appear to be passed on by genetics, I just have bad luck, I guess.
Two years after the grim Stage 4 diagnosis, I confessed to a close friend that the doctors told me I only had two years to live, max. I kept this information to myself because if I were to say it, then it would be true. I now continue to hold my breath, now that it is past that deadline. I have spent the last couple years holding my breath, as I pray every New Year's resolution, past and future. There's a small subcategory of people with Stage 4 cancer who live for years after being diagnosed. This group constitutes about 2 percent of all cancer cases and doctors can't predict who will fall into this category.
I told them "I'm a fighter." Somehow I have managed to fend off the infection and slowly recover. I pulled through because of my belief in God, my warrior attitude and the skill of the surgeons who performed the procedures to remove the deadly cancer. But though the cancer is gone, I now fight a myriad of daily health issues including Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, lupus, heart disease, peripheral neuropathy, and needing both knees surgically replaced. I am barely hanging on to survival these days.
I've had it rough with the cancer and other ailments I guess. I cannot really do much these days but I consider myself a "frequent flyer," having been operated on 5 bouts of different cancers. How many people can say that? I try not to allow my physical and mental conditions ruin my life, but it takes everything within me to get through one painful day after the other. So if you ever have to wonder how to help a friend thats been diagnosed with cancer, just be there for them. Friends can't make the fact that you have cancer go away but they can make it all better and they can, however, help you feel safer. Whenever you're scared, it's important to know that someone is there.