This skin cancer survivor story is one of the many that could be told.
It is unique. It is mine.
Some of you will relate to it.
Many others will learn something from it and, fortunately, some will never have one to tell.
My survivor story begins back in 1990 when I was 47. It’s a story of squamous skin cancer and how it caught me ignorant and unaware.
It would soon change my entire life.
I was newly married, had a beautiful newborn baby girl and a great new job. I felt good and life was great.
I was on my way home from the gym early one morning, listening to the radio, when I happened to rub my neck and felt a small lump that I had never noticed before.
After arriving home, my wife urged me to make a doctor’s appointment, which I did.
At the appointment, blood was drawn and the lump was examined visually. The blood test showed no cancer and I was simply told to be watching it.
The doctor said to return if it doesn’t go away.
About a month passed with me not really thinking about it, but its presence was still there.
Quickly, within a few days, it started growing much larger.
Not only was it growing but there
was pain along with it. Not terrible, but bothersome.
I returned to the primary care doctor and this time, after it had grown, he did make an appointment for me with an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor.
A biopsy was done and it was determined to be squamous cell carcinoma. The doctors referred to it as “head and neck cancer.”
Their plan was to admit me in the hospital right away and do an endoscopy to determine if it was spreading within.
It was a Friday and they admitted me right then. The endoscopy was scheduled for 6 am Monday.
I didn't like what I saw coming.
Coming from my background and strong leanings toward health foods and natural cures, I was being pulled in that direction.
My wife was there with me and we were talking about an alternative cancer treatment.
I couldn’t easily accept all the anticipated medical treatments I was imagining were ahead for me.
Earlier in my life I had become acquainted with a macrobiotic diet which became popular in the 60’s and still is today. It never left my mind the healing powers this diet could have.
I was leaning strongly towards macrobiotics.
I wasn’t content laying in that hospital. I wanted to leave and feel more at peace in my own home.
I managed to persuade the doctor to let me go home for the weekend.
My wife and I went to a bookstore and we bought a book on alternative cancer cures and another one called The Cancer Prevention Diet by Michio Kushi.
It so happens that I knew Michio Kushi from attending some of his classes on the macrobiotic diet at The Arlington St,. Church in Boston, MA, back in the sixties.
I followed Michio’s advice on healthy eating, at least for a while, then gradually returned to the mainstream American diet.
I was, however, convinced that if I ever got really sick, this would be what I would do.
I return to the fact that the doctor had let me go home for the weekend.
Well, you may have suspected this already, but I’ll tell you anyway; I called the doctor and informed him what I was doing and that I would not be there Monday morning.
I then began my own course of action.
The first step in my plan of action was go to Boston and have a consultation with Michio Kushi. Then I spent a week at the Kushi Institute in Beckett MA, located in the Berkshire Mountains.
I learned what to eat and not to eat, specifically for me, and how to properly cook it.
When I returned home, my wife supported me tremendously and I began my daily regimen. She supported me to the point that she began the diet herself. I told her she didn't have to do this.
It's is a very drastic change from the food we are accustomed to eating.
She did it anyway. This was a tremendous support to me and we both benefited.
Along with the change in diet I was told to go out for a one hour walk every morning and again every evening, without fail.
It didn't matter if it was snowing, raining, hot or freezing, just go! I did.
My time spent walking was a great time to think. Sometimes I would imagine, that like a soldier, I was marching and defeating this squamous cell skin cancer with each step. It helped me not to quit.
I got that idea from another book I read on the macrobiotic diet. It contained some general cancer survivor stories and as one survivor was following the diet he imagined that, as he was eating, little solders entered into his body and were fighting off the dreadful enemy.
In the end, he won.
So it did provide a source of strength in my way of thinking.
Well after a few months, instead of getting smaller, the lump called squamous cell skin cancer, grew a little larger.
I had met with several macrobiotic counselors and I was told that this may happen.
It could get worse before it gets better.
I went back to the hospital and they recommended that I start chemotherapy right away.
I agreed and they gave me one round and then a second in the following month.
It wasn’t fun, but it did definitely reduce my squamous cell skin cancer down to the size of a pea, like it was when it first appeared.
They wanted to operate at that point, and remove what was left.
Again, being strongly opposed, I was feeling quite confident and encouraged to continue on with my macrobiotic regimen.
I expected to see all of that squamous cell skin cancer disappear.
That was my choice and that’s what I did.
A few more months went by and again it started to grow.
This time I was dealing with more than a bigger lump. I had a tumor on each side of my neck and it was appearing inside my mouth.
I went back to the hospital.
The ENT (ear, nose & throat) Doctor told me it was now a stage 4 squamous cell cancer and they needed to operate right away.
With a lot of support from my wife, I said, OK, let’s do it!
It was now a lot bigger operation than it would have been when it was the size of a pea.
In fact, the operation lasted 12 hours.
The operation was called a bilateral radical neck dissection.
The following day in my hospital room the two Doctors that performed the operation informed me that they were able to remove about 98% of it.
The news was somewhat of a relief, at least I wanted to think of it as somewhat relieving. Yet that 98% number left me wondering how much more can I take.
I just pulled myself together and got ready for the next step.
I tried to dwell only on positive thoughts and not really worry about the radiation.
I’m a realistic person and know that things can go either way, still I try to maintain the most positive outlook that I can.
They went on to tell me that I need to follow it up with radiation to remove the rest of it.
I gave no hesitation or resistance this time, I just said, OK!
They gave me a month to recover before starting radiation. It didn’t seem like I had recovered very much at all, but they said I was ready.
The radiation treatments were extremely tough and they went on for 32 days.
There was so much nausea, vomiting and painful sores in my mouth.
That was pleasant news, but it sure took it's toll on me.
Some of my neighbors later told me that they didn’t think I was going to make it through those days.
In my own mind, I can say that I never thought like that. I still knew there was plenty for me after I got through this. It was just going to take a long time.
With the cancer gone I was now focused more on strengthening my health and recovering.
My wife continued to cook whole grains and fresh organic vegetables and I slowly was getting stronger.
Recovery came sooner than I expected, but I began to realize that life will never be the same after that arsenal of treatments.
At first I only worked a few hours a day, and gradually worked up to full time again.
I went on to work for almost twenty years at Emmanuel Stained Glass Studio (owned by my brother) and in 2007, I retired.
It was a fall from a ladder that forced me to retire.
So I'm finding the time to do some things that I love, like sharing my cancer survivor story, lots of practical information and gathering skin cancer survivor stories on this web site so more people can be aware and informed about skin cancer.
Look at the good things, enjoy life in spite of all that would bring us down.
My daughter, who was born when it all began, graduated in December 2014 from UT Knoxville with a Bachelor of Science and about 5 weeks later landed her first job in the field of Geology.
These are the things that put a big smile on my face as she is the first in the family to have made such an achievement.
She is engaged to a good young man who has my respect. I’ll be dancing at their wedding in September 2015!
I have two beautiful grandchildren through my wife’s son Luis and they are a giant joy to me. They keep me young and make me laugh.
So I’m still here today, after 24 years, to add my cancer survivor story to the long list of stories that have been told long before me.
I hope that all the information, experiences and other skin cancer survivor stories you find in this site will provide you with inspiration to improve your health, encouragement to relieve the stress and worrying and much needed guidance to form your plan of action.
Truly, my story about squamous cell skin cancer still goes on.
I'll let you know a lot of things that I have done over the years to maintain my health in the best condition I can.
If you're one experiencing skin cancer or any disease at any stage, improving your health is so important for gaining a better quality of life.
In all that I've mentioned above, I'm not necessarily saying that everyone should follow a macrobiotic diet. It just happens to be something I already knew something about and it made sense to me. I know it's not for everyone as it requires total dedication and guidance by a qualified macrobiotic counselor/s.
I now eat a generally healthy diet and supplement for what is lacking in the food.
There's no getting around the fact that the food you choose to eat plays a big role in whether you are strong and healthy or weak and sickly.
Anything you do to improve your health requires dedication and is well worth it!
Please pass My Personal Cancer Survivor Story with squamous cell skin cancer to any friend or loved one you feel it might benefit.
If you want to ask me any questions about skin cancer, don't hesitate to Contact Me.
Through the years as a survivor...
My Christmas in 1990 while experiencing radiation ...This was written as a Merry Christmas wish, especially to encourage anyone experiencing a similar situation. ...It might encourage anyone all throughout the year.
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Updated July 1, 2015
"MELANOMA : “NO BIG DEAL ” IT'S JUST SKIN CANCER!
Hi! My name is Nick and I’m 56 yrs. old and this is part of my story. Let me tell you, I was like a lot of people out there and I had no idea that skin cancer was anything bad. I had Basal cell back in 2007, but that was no big deal and it was removed and that was the end of that. No one told me that it was a type of skin cancer (I looked it up on my computer). But still no big deal, it would not kill me.
But I did know the word "Melanoma"....." --by Nick
Scared to Death!!! - by Shelly
Our Cancer Stories are so similar, mine and Gary's! - by Valerie
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The Weather Channel has done well posting this information and photos to help you spot skin cancer, including melanoma.
It can be hard to spot, even for a professional.
The bottom line is to get an expert's opinion about any suspicious mole or lesion on your skin. If necessary, get a second opinion and/or request a biopsy. it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Don’t put your very life at risk!