Everyone reacts differently to the news of a cancer diagnosis. For me, it was a shock to the system. Health and nutrition were always core principles in my life. Cancer was the last thing I expected.
I had a sore in my mouth that wouldn’t go away. But several dentists assured me it was nothing. Even the initial biopsy came back benign. I thought all was well until my doctor suggested a deeper more invasive biopsy of my jaw.
At the age of 67, I was diagnosed with stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma.
I was scared by the news, but dwelling on it wasn’t the answer. I’m a move forward kind of guy. So I said to the doc, “what do we do next?” Two weeks later I was at Roswell Park for treatment.
The plan was to remove part of my jaw, replace it with bones from my leg, and follow up with chemo and radiation. Surgery lasted 14 hours, and I was left speechless, motionless and clueless as to how I’d survive this. But I had a wife and two daughters to think about. So I stayed positive and pushed forward.
Following surgery, I underwent 32 rounds of radiation and 3 1/2 rounds of chemo. I didn’t eat solid food for eight months and I had to learn to eat and walk again. But I never gave up. The support and care I had from my wife, Zoreeda, and the incredible doctors at Roswell Park, were the inspiration I needed to keep my spirits up.
I’ve now been cancer-free for three years. It took some time getting used to the new normal — I have to chew on the left side of my mouth and I struggle with bladder issues. But I continue to eat healthy and exercise regularly. I even converted a room in my house to practice aerobics.
Throughout this tumultuous fight for my life, one thing remained constant — I wanted to be a role model for my wife and children. I wanted to teach them that a positive, upbeat attitude is the only way to overcome life’s struggles. I hope my experience reminds them, and others, to never give up.