Lazarus-forum | Robert’s Story

Robert’s Story

I had finished a 16 mile run on a Sunday suffering a head cold complete with typical swollen lymph nodes in my neck. Went to see my GP on Tuesday to help me rid it; made him nervous (he didn’t tell me at the time) so he sent me for a CT scan right away. Routine, he said. The very next morning I get a call asking me to come into the Clinic office straight away. I was greeted with the news that I had probable cancer in my throat and neck. I went to the specialist on Friday; who took a look; did a brief FNA biopsy, and declared Stage IV, 6 months terminal w/o treatment. In total shock, I declined admittance to a cancer care facility; instead working with a group of oncologists (radiation; Medical (Chemo); ENT / Surgeon; Gastroenterology / Feeding tube, etc.). 35 daily radiation treatments, and 7 weekly chemo treatments later, I was told I’d be having surgery in 3-5 months. 3 months later, after another PET and CT scan, they declared my cancer not visible or detectable. All of us were quite surprised. So began my long recovery, sans surgery. I had lost over 45 pounds, was skinny, gaunt, very weak, and to be honest, pretty wrinkly from all the radiation. Since I had been a runner (quite average), I turned back to it to help me regain my strength and sense of self. I started out by walking for a block, wobbly trotting for a block, and so on, slowing regaining my ability to run. And to feel my health coming back. Shortly after my good 3 month news I asked the docs about any physical limitations. Their answer; if you can do it, do it; if the treatment didn’t kill you, exercise surely won’t. With that affirmation I signed up for a 5k. Finished in a mind boggling 43 minutes. Barely faster than a brisk walk. But I was the happiest man on the course; and I had the tube taped to me still using only that feeding tube for nutrition and hydration. From there I began a quest to complete a full marathon (26.2 miles) within 12 months of my final treatment. 10 months later, I did it. And 5 more within the next 12 months. As I regained strength, I set a new goal: qualify for, and run, The Boston Marathon. My 7th post cancer marathon I finally did it. I had never even come close to running a qualifying time prior to getting cancer. Now I was eligible to run the most famous of all marathons. I ran my first on in 2014; and have qualified once more to run in the 2015 Boston Marathon in April. Plus I was able to run the 2014 Dublin Marathon, which was absolutely brilliant and probably the most fun race I’ve done. In addition to the marathons, I was invited to join a running team, and in the last two years have won my age group 29 times, and placed 2nd or 3rd 17 more, including firsts in a marathon and 1/2 marathon. I say all this not for aggrandizement, but for the power of the human body and mind in overcoming so devastating and life changing. I have spoken to over 40 cancer groups, telling my story, encouraging survivors and caregivers to set goals, accomplish something difficult in whatever endeavour they choose; to never give in, and truly beat the disease. My experience has enabled me to reach people who have generously given a fair amount of money for research and care, and pray all who suffer the disease find a bright new light and life post treatment and share their success with others who face it. Thank you!