Survivor Stories: 2016

 

Caroline Grigg // daughter to Kelley & Gordon // Public Relations major @ University of South Carolina (’17) // member of Delta Delta Delta & philanthropist w/ St. Jude Children's Research Hospital // participant in other campus service organizations such as Greek Impact // JL Mann High School grad (’14) & former student body president // Charlotte born & Nashville raised before she moved to GVL a week before high school & “she took Greenville by storm,” as Charles says
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Charles Stone // son of Rita & Chuck // Animal Sciences & Entomology double-major @ Cornell University (’18) // Greenville High School grad (’14) & former student body president // “He is smart as heck,” Caroline says; to which he replies, “No, I am just a nerd…I really like bugs.” She agrees, “You should see his SnapChat stories. You’ll get a daily dose of any sort of insect you can imagine.”

CHARLES: “Caroline & I were friends in high school, & I think we both had our minds set on becoming our student body presidents. That actually ended up happening! We both won our elections, so that was pretty cool. Our schools [Greenville High & J.L. Mann] independently started brainstorming charity options for Spirit Week [the 2013-14 school year]. The schools had always chosen different charities, but we thought it would pretty cool to choose the same charity: one that truly gives back to our community [like CSP]. We thought it would be neat to do a Spirit Week together to show the unity that cancer brings to the community -- because everyone has been affected by it. So the idea snowballed from there.”

CAROLINE: “At first when presented to my student council, it was sort of like, ‘What…?’ It’s never been done, so at first it was a lot to take in, because it’s such a rivalry between the schools. So it was a big deal -- like, ‘Wait what? We are going to work with them on a lot of things & still make it a rivalry?’ But we simmered on it, & it started to become really exciting for everyone on my council, I know. It became more like, ‘Oh my gosh! Let’s go! Let’s meet with them, talk with them, figure out what we want to do.’ [Both schools] were able to do a couple of events together. It was cool to brainstorm about things we could only do when coming together at a time like that. J.L Mann ended up raising $214,203.93 for CSP.”

CHARLES: “Yeah! Additionally, my school raised $298,266.47 that week. It’s definitely an important cause. Cancer hits home pretty hard for me personally. We lost my maternal grandmother before I was born – my mom was 27, & it was right before her wedding -- & my maternal grandfather my sophomore year of high school to rectal melanoma, which is really rare. That was very tough. I was very close to him. My aunt – my dad’s sister -- is also battling cancer. She’s been in & out of remission for 8 or 10 years. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, but most recently has battled colon cancer with a few spots found on her lungs as well. Even my close friends – I am affected by when they are affected. Cancer’s impact is far reaching. It’s truly like a web.”

CAROLINE: “Cancer was not something I had dealt with in my immediate family, but growing up my mom’s best friend battled it. She’s beaten breast cancer twice, & just growing up with her daughter being one of my best friends as well, [my family] was always doing stuff like taking food to the hospital for them, being the support system behind helping another family deal with that. My roommate’s mom has beaten breast cancer since we’ve been in college. Also since I got to college I joined Tri Delta, & our philanthropy is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. So for me, CSP led to this soft spot in my heart for working with people who have or have had cancer; working with others on certain cancer initiatives; doing things like meeting pediatric cancer patients with St. Jude, & seeing & being able to work with families that have been affected. So I have been more affected by cancer now than ever before. I was just at St. Jude’s in Memphis this weekend, volunteering & doing a private tour, getting to see where the money we have been raising has been going, & meeting with some of the patients there."

CHARLES: “As far as the Park, I definitely think it was a new concept for me: just thinking about continuing a legacy, & the people left to do that being survivors as well. It had drawn me to fundraising for CSP since I have been personally impacted. I think it’s such an incredible way to go about thinking about cancer -- either way, if you defeat it or you don’t win, the people who you love will go on to be your survivors. It’s a really nice sentiment to have a park that represents that, & embodies this mindset you would want anyone battling cancer to have, because it’s an awful thing. It’s nice to have an environment & a place to go that embodies this idea that, ‘You are fighting, you are doing your best, you are not alone, & there are people here to support you.’ There are so many people that go through the ordeal, & it’s nice to have the Park as a physical place -- but also conceptually this mindset that survivors are not just those who have fought the disease & won. It’s also about the others who are carrying on the legacy of those lost.”

CAROLINE: “Yes. Charlie has said a lot. It’s really the same thing for me. I can think of the times growing up around Jenny (my mom’s best friend) & having those times with her daughter, Kristin. Being young, not really knowing what’s really going on -- but we’d see family members reaching out, ambulances coming to the house…I think about if we had had a place to go back then. Having a place like CSP where my mom could drop us off, & we could walk around, look at things, take it all in. I think about being a child, & just having a place to be able to breathe & try to understand; a tranquil place when other places could be not-so-peaceful, with a lot of adults all around you, acting as your parents while your parents were dealing with such a difficult thing. It would’ve done wonders, & to have that in Greenville now -- when I tell people I meet through St. Jude about the Park, they are like, ‘Oh my gosh, we have to go! We have to visit!’ It’s relieving for people to know that there’s a place like that to go & relax, rewind, be with nature -- a place to find some peace & time to let it all settle in.”

 

 

Stan Von Hofe, M.D. // husband to Barbara & father to Johanna (an Ob/Gyn) // teacher @ University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville (“I love it,” he says) // endocrinologist (retired from private practice) // runner & active member of The Life Center // horseback rider // Clemson Athletics fan // left us summer of 2018 from gastric cancer diagnosed Stage 3B in ‘07)
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 “Being a survivor is basically about wanting to stay alive & not let cancer define who you are as a person. Many people deal with adversity. You just keep plugging.

“I was diagnosed with stomach (gastric) cancer in ‘07, treated with chemo & radiation therapy Oct. ‘07 to April ‘08, & then had surgery to remove my stomach (gastrectomy) in May ‘08. My mother also died from ovarian cancer the year I graduated from college.

“I did well from a cancer standpoint until April this year, when I had a recurrence (metastasis) to my brain. This presented as sudden leg weakness & inability to walk; & subsequently, I had surgery to remove the tumor in my brain, followed by radiation therapy. Currently I’m doing well, & I’m back to my hobbies of working out at The Life Center, running & horseback riding.

“Regarding treatment decisions, the fact I’m a doctor has played a major part in my treatment. I visited Duke, M.D. Anderson in Houston, & I had phone or email consults with friends at Mayo, Harvard & Vanderbilt. After gathering all data, I decided my best treatment options were here in Greenville. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the patient being his own advocate. It’s easy if you’re a physician, but not so much if you’re not. Educate yourself, & ask questions. Because my cancer was Stage 3B at diagnosis, surgeons were reluctant to operate on me; only Dr. [Steven] Trocha here in Greenville was willing to ‘go for it.’

“I’ve always been the spouse responsible for finances. My wife, Barbara, is the educator, intellectual & moral anchor to the family -- & she found the undertaking of such duties to be extremely stressful. While my recent recurrence portends an equivocal prognosis, I don't fear death so much as worry about how such an event would affect my wife. Fortunately, Johanna (my doctor daughter & joy of my life) understands my medical issues, & is thus better prepared to deal with whatever comes.

“My advice is to take care of yourself starting in high school & college. I’ve been a runner since 1967, & I’m convinced I had as good an outcome as I have had because I was in good physical shape & able to tolerate chemo & radiation therapy. In other words: be prepared. Also, try to be as physically active as tolerable while undergoing therapy.

“I’m very tuned in to friends & patients who have cancer, & have tried to support several of them on a one-on-one basis by sharing my experience & encouragement. This experience has made me a better doctor.”

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Read more from the Survivor Series @bit.ly/CSPSurvivorSeries. Photo by Mark Kirby.#survivorspark



Julie Cline // mother to sons Davey & Wade; grandmother to 4 grandchildren // speaker at our Phase II groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 27 @ 10 am // survivor of husband David (diagnosed w/ single cell lung cancer July ’97; passed away Father’s Day ’11) 

"They didn’t expect David to live long at all, but he ended up living 14 years almost to the day. From the very beginning, David was determined that whatever time he had left, he would make the best of. He was a very positive person. He was like a magnet – people were just drawn to him. He laughed a lot & joked a lot.

“At that time, when he was sick, there was not all of the help outside of the medical field there is now. We had to find everything on our own. We drove to Columbia for an acupuncturist. We drove to Atlanta for massage therapy. We drove to Tryon for another kind of therapy. The muscles behind his lungs got scarred through doing chemo & radiation at the same time, so the muscles were rigid, & he had a lot of back pain. He went anywhere to try if something could help him with his pain. Now they have all those things in house. I know he would be pleased about that. But there was no support group for lung cancer patients; they didn’t usually survive long enough, so he was really out there on his own to find resources to make his quality of life better.

“He also never gave up. Until the very last weekend of his life, he was determined to fight. He gave it all he had for 14 years. People at the Cancer Center called him the miracle man. He took a gift bag of fun-sized Snickers every time he went to the doctor, & he would give one to everybody who touched his life: the doctors, the nurses, the receptionists, the patients in the waiting room who looked like they needed a little smile, children there with their parents.

“He was a very caring & loving person. After it looked like he wasn’t going to die right away, he wanted to do something for the people who had helped save his life. Dr. Giguere was his oncologist, & he and Jeff had formed a good friendship. They both had wonderful senses of humor. David said, ‘Jeff, I’ve got some money, & I want to do something in the realm of cancer – do you have a pet project?’ Jeff said, ‘Well, as a matter of fact, there’s this group trying to get off the ground, & they are struggling a little bit. It’s called Patients First (now Cancer Survivors Park Alliance).  It’s a patient advocacy program. Their mission is more educational, but the first project they are going to have is a big Cancer Survivors Park.’ So David got interested in that. At that point, they had a committee & ideas, but really didn’t have any funds. The gift David gave was really the seed money that helped them get things off the ground -- pamphlets printed & mailed to get the word out & things like that. We ended up being on the board. It became too hard for him to do it, but I stayed on for a number of years. It started getting momentum, and the Park was going to be the flagship program. Patients First eventually became the Cancer Survivors Park alliance.

“A few months after he died on Fathers Day in 2011, we had the opportunity to make a donation in David’s memory. I knew that were he alive, that’s what he would’ve wanted. There was no question in my mind that I wanted to get involved. It was proposed that we give the money for the Pavilion.

“When we first were on the board and talking about the Park -- that was before HIPAA was created. One of the things that excited David the most was that they said there would be an educational center & there would be a computer there, where you could type in your type of cancer. The names of the people in the area around Greenville who had that would come up, so you could contact those people & talk to them. You wouldn’t have to feel like you are hanging out there all by yourself. He said, ‘I want to do that. That’s what I want to do for the Park. I want to provide the resources for that to happen.’ Well HIPAA came in & you cant do that now -- they can’t give you the names & contacts of people. But they are going to have this educational center underneath the Pavilion, where you can read about whatever type of cancer you want to read about & other resources.

“I like the idea of this Park being a community-wide thing – cancer doesn’t just effect one person or just the family. I think it’s so widespread there are very few people in Greenville who haven’t been touched by cancer in some form, & to me, this is making a statement to let people know that there’s hope. Don’t give up. The Pavilion we are giving comes up to a point that reaches up to the sky. I think that’s one of the best symbols, & to me, the hope is not on the ground. The doctors & people around you give you hope, but your biggest hope comes from above. We wanted this park to be a place of reflection. I hope it is going to be used & enjoyed by everybody -- whether you’ve been touched by cancer, had it & survived cancer, lost someone to it. It’s for everybody.

“Within the confines of David’s illness & him being on oxygen for 10 years, he lived his life as fully as anyone could’ve lived it. He lived to see all 4 of his grandchildren born; both his boys graduate college; one graduate from seminary. He lived to see both of his parents pass. He lived a long time well, & that I think is his legacy. He taught people how to live through trials with grace & dignity & humor. If he was sitting here right now, he would probably say, ‘Don’t put my name on that building. Just build the building.’ He was a very humble person, but he had the biggest heart -- & actually, a large heart is what took him, & when I called a friend to tell him he said, ‘Well, he always had the biggest heart. I am not surprised.’”
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C. David Tollison, Ph.D. // pictured w/ wife Linda, daughter Courtney Tollison-Hartness, & son-in-law Sean Hartness; also father to David Tollison, Jr. // practicing clinical psychologist // author/editor of 10 medical textbooks on pain diagnosis & treatment // former ‘60s & ‘70s rock radio disc jockey, ‘Dave Tolley’ // fan of Clemson, Furman & baseball // survivor of throat cancer (diagnosed July 13, ’15)

  “An estimated 1.7 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2015, & I was one of them. At age 65, a malignant tumor obstructed 90% of my throat, complicating my ability to eat & breathe. The diagnosis was throat cancer, & unfortunately it was growing. My father & his brothers had all died young from heart disease; consequently, I hadn’t given much thought to cancer.

“Most fortunately, treatments exist. Within days of my diagnosis, I arrived in Charleston at MUSC, where additional diagnostic tests were performed & treatment alternatives outlined. One approach involved the surgical removal of my ‘voice box’ (larynx). This broad intervention offered optimal clinical effectiveness, but with the extreme disadvantage of losing my ability to speak without electronic assistance.

“A second & less extensive treatment involved an effort to isolate & surgically remove the offending tumor, while salvaging the ability to verbally converse. Following detailed deliberation & discussion with family, I chose the second, less invasive surgical option. I wanted to maintain the ability to talk to my wife & children & furthermore, as a practicing clinical psychologist for the past 37 years, the ability to verbally communicate has served as the foundation of my professional life.

“I sailed through surgery with minimal difficulty. However, subsequent chemotherapy & radiation treatments were not as easy. Amongst other complications, I developed pneumonia & later, diverticulitis -- both requiring additional hospitalizations; & don’t think that you get time off from cancer treatment simply because you develop additional & complicating medical disorders. Radiation treatment & chemotherapy take priority.

“I was diagnosed with cancer only weeks before my wife [Linda] & I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. My wife was recovering from a fractured kneecap. Upon learning of my diagnosis, however, she abandoned her own local treatment, & we relocated for several months to Charleston. For 40 years I have considered myself particularly fortunate to have her as my life partner, but never more than our time in cancer treatment. Despite her own discomfort & difficulty walking, she stayed with me around the clock in the hospital. She tirelessly attended every medical appointment, every lengthy chemotherapy session, & didn’t miss even one of 35 daily radiation treatments. My daughter [Courtney] & son-in-law devotedly visited on weekends, held my hand & kept me laughing. Dozens of family, friends & acquaintances send cards & care packages, & offered untold numbers of prayers. Faith & the steadfast devotion of a remarkably loving & optimistic family afforded me an enormous advantage. My wish is that every cancer patient may be so fortunate.

“For me, a diagnosis of cancer was a game changer, & triggered examination of priorities that sometimes become imbalanced due to our pace of life. I had shortness of breath & difficulty swallowing long before my family finally insisted I seek medical attention. For several months I largely ignored those symptoms, because I was too busy with life in motion -- & dealing with multiple but routine responsibilities to take the time to investigate. Cancer erased such foolish perceptions, & replaced distorted distractions with a calm, focused clarity.

“I am amazingly fortunate! I have a raspy voice, & some minor difficulty swallowing solid foods. However, overall I feel good, & enjoy encouraging medical evaluations to date. Faith & family -- coupled with expert medical care & the prayerful support of friends -- have enabled me to gratefully count myself among a growing number of cancer survivors.”

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Fritzi Barbour // wife to Steve Barbour (commercial airline pilot & AF vet) // residential real estate broker (C. Dan Joyner Realtors) // SC Association of Realtors president // ovarian cancer survivor (diagnosed with stage 1 3C March ’15 at 51 y/o; finished treatment Oct. ‘15) 

“When I went to the doctor & she gave me a pelvic exam, the whole time I kept saying, ‘I am sure its nothing.’ & she said – literally while she’s giving the pelvic exam – ‘Fritzi, it’s not nothing. You have a mass in your pelvis. We are sending you to St. Francis immediately to get an ultrasound.’

“It’s funny, because the hardest part was hearing the diagnosis – coming to grips with the fact that I had cancer. That was the shocking part. I have a maternal aunt who died of ovarian cancer, & I have my girlfriend Maggie who had gone through it so many times [over 12 years]. So to hear the words ‘ovarian cancer’ scared my husband & me tremendously.

“My last treatment was in October. I did 3 rounds of chemo, then 28 sessions of radiation, & then another 3 rounds of chemo. I lost my hair twice in the process. Just as it was coming back in, radiation was over, & it was time to do chemo & shave my head again. My oncologist, Dr. Larry Puls, wasn’t originally going to follow this new kind of protocol. But he found some research between the time of my hysterectomy & my treatment started, & he & his partner decided they were going to change what they were going to do. I had these interesting little bulls-eye marks all over my abdomen & my back from the 28 radiation sessions. I was quite an interesting sight for a while! I would get out of the shower, & my poor husband – his wife was bald, she had a huge scar from the hysterectomy, & now she’s got these little black bulls-eye Sharpie marks all over her body from radiation every day – & I said, ‘Well, I was trying to convince you that I was hot for our entire marriage, & now I am REALLY hot. I am radioactive!’

“So I am married to the great explorer of the world, Steve Barbour. We’ve done Mayan ruins, underground rivers & caves, the Galapagos Islands, Europe, volcanoes in Hawaii...He’s had me hiking 1600 feet up a volcano in Ecuador. I never would’ve done that if not married to Steve. We just returned from Iceland! He’s been talking about Iceland since we got married in ’98, when he was in the Air Force & was there for 2 weeks. We hiked ice caves, & I went down a teensy little rabbit hole to hike a lava tube underground -- I didn’t even know those things existed! We snowmobiled & ATVed & walked on black sand beaches. It was cold as hell, & we had a ball!

“One of the most remarkable things about Larry Puls was that the day of my surgery, when we went in for the pre-op, & they get you ready -- he comes in just before to give you an idea of what’s going to happen that day & take questions. My husband Steve & I were sitting there & said, ‘No, no questions.’ He totally caught us off guard; he kind of rolls his little stool over to where I am on the bed & Steve’s standing next to me, & [Dr. Puls] said, ‘Alright, the next thing I would like to do is, I would like to know if I could pray for you before we go into surgery.’ We all grabbed each others’ hands, & he said the prayer. He asked for guidance before going into the surgery, & he prayed for healing if [cancer was] what [he found]. When he ended that prayer, & he walked out of the room, we were thunderstruck! We looked at each other & were teary. I said to Steve, ‘We are exactly where we are supposed to be.’ It felt so good to us to know Dr. Puls had faith & was a spiritual person, & wasn’t acting like everything that was going to happen was because of him or his skills or his training.

“When he told me in November that I am officially in remission, at the end of that appointment he rolled his little stool over to the end of the examining table & he said, ‘Give me your hands. I would like to say a prayer.’ & he gave a prayer of thanks that my counts had consistently fallen to a level of naming in remission at this stage. He has a gift I think. He’s not just talented. I think he’s gifted.

“When you go through cancer yourself, you’re obviously much more attuned to it, or people bring it up in conversation more often & share. Weekly, I get messages from different people I have known from different walks of life -- some I haven’t seen in 25 years -- & they’re telling me about theirs…It’s one of those things -- it’s an unforced gift of cancer. It’s a strange thing that brings together lots of people.”

 

Loria Hopkins // employee of the Department of Health & Human Services in Spartanburg // loves cooking & Jesus // church secretary // church choir member (10 yrs) // lost to breast cancer (diagnosed ’98 & ’15; left us February 5, 2018 at 57 y/o)

“[They] had to remove my right breast. Then two weeks after that, I started doing chemo. I did chemo for quite some time, & then I did radiation for 6 weeks. I had to stop one week because it had burned me.

“The other treatments had worked, but the cancer was so deep, they wanted me to do a stem cell transplant as precautionary measure. My [still current] doctor was talking to me about doing it ASAP; but I said, ‘Nah nah, nah. I am going to have to pray about this before I can do anything!’ So my family & I got together, & we prayed & we prayed. After a week, the Lord spoke to me & told me, ‘You know, it’s time. Go ahead & do it.’ So I did, & the first Tuesday after Labor Day in ‘98, they put me in the hospital. They had been running tests & all that, & pulling my cells. They froze those, & then they put me in the hospital & did chemo 24 hours a day for 4 days. Around the clock for 4 days straight! After that, they gave the cells back that they had taken from me & frozen on that Monday. So I had to stay in the hospital 21 days.

“At this point in time, you couldn’t eat out; you couldn’t go out unless you have a hard mask on; you had to stay in your house when you got home. You can’t eat any salads or bananas or apples or anything with a peel, because it might have bacteria on it. You couldn’t be around any children under the age of 10, because they carry germs. I had to sit at the house all day. I read the Bible; I studied; I watched TV; I slept. I played games & all that stuff. I couldn’t be out for long periods of time. I still had to wear that mask for quite a while. People look at you like you’re crazy! You couldn’t use the little paper ones – you had to wear a hard one, like the ones people wear when they cut grass, so nothing could get through it…It was like sometimes, the walls would start to close in on you. If you went outside, you had to go & get in a car. You couldn’t just walk around outside.

“I was like the 6th or 7th person to do [stem cell transplants Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute]. It was very new back then. You had to run through all types of tests to make sure you’re strong enough, like bone scans.

“I had been in remission, but last year, I had breast cancer in my left breast. It wasn’t as big as a pea, it was so small – they caught it on the mammogram. So I went ahead – I had a choice – & I had it removed. I had genetic testing. They have a new process that they go through, where they send your cells off to a big lab in California, & they tell you if you need chemo or not. I didn’t need it! It was great! I had been praying about it.

“Everything I do, I turn it over to God. I have to pray about it! The doctors – they are good doctors. But I have to listen to Dr. Jesus. That’s my doctor right there! If he says no, I don’t do it. If he says yes, I do it. I have to pray about it & give it to him before I do anything. It’s just like – I don’t know – it’s just something all of a sudden in my mind that says, ‘Now go ahead. Everything’s going to be alright.’ It’s hard to explain.

  
 

Rich Groom (44 y/o) // husband to Kelly; father to daughters Pearson & Holland // CEO of Sparks Research // Clemson football fan & graduate (’93) // runner, hiker, beach bum & surfer // survivor of stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (diagnosed at 35 y/o in Feb. ’06; entered “molecular remission” May ’06)

“I was diagnosed officially & started treatment in February of ’06, & when I see Dr. [Larry] Gluck now, he says that is ‘my date.’ I just passed [10 years], literally now! But I had tumors in the lower & upper quadrants of my body, & I had evidence of cancer in my bone marrow. The good news is, I’ve heard once you’ve reached 10 years you can go back to some sort of a normalcy. By no means am I getting yearly PET scans or CT scans anymore, but on the frontend, I was doing that really frequently, because that’s usually when [non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma] pops back up – & then you have to do other things. I’ve actually had friends that I’ve known that have had to do multiple other types of treatments to get it to go away.

“Life is good. My doctors were, at first, saying that ‘This is a good one to get,’ & of course my mind is like, ‘There is no such thing – a good cancer to get?’ But you know, I sat back & had an epiphany & said, ‘Well, I was dealt a crappy card in life. I could sit back & cry about it & be negative, or I can just do what I need to do. I have other things I need to be doing. I have two young children.’ I never really sweated it. I truthfully didn’t.

“I had 6 rounds of chemo. I never got sick. I missed 3-4 days of work. Funny enough, I gained a ton of weight because of the steroids. I gained 20-40 lbs., but I’ve lost it. It’s amazing how much chemo takes out of you. I remember doing simple things such as going up & down stairs. I mean at 35, you’re young…I’m cutting grass, picking up my kids, doing things I needed to do – & all of a sudden after 2 treatments of chemo – yeah, I was bald, but I felt like I was hung over most of the time. It wasn’t like I was dying, but I would go up a flight of a stairs, & I was huffing & puffing. It was like we were in the Andes Mountains or something.

“My funny story with the kids…they were too young to know. My 5-year old at the time knew daddy was taking medicine that would make his hair fall out. Other than that, there was never any thought in her mind anything was really wrong. She was a kindergartener, so we never got to that level. But I always wanted to have a Mohawk, & so my wife videotaped it & my girls, my wife & I shaved a Mohawk. I had longer hair, & I spiked it out, & we shaved the sides. Right on the 19th day, your hair will literally fall out in clumps, & so knowing that I was like, ‘The hell with this – I am going to shave a Mohawk.’ So I did! I walked around town, went to the mall. I was in khakis & a dress shirt with a full Mohawk. I looked like a punk rocker from the ‘80s –just to thumb my nose at the fact that, ‘Yeah, I have to deal with this, but I am not going to be sad about it.’ My wife & kids were instrumental – I mean, we had fun.

“It’s funny – that surfboard [in my picture] is my old one from college that has seen some fun days. Now my oldest daughter Pearson uses it. Hopefully we will get Holland to start using it. But yeah, my oldest daughter has surfed on it now, so there are stickers on it that are girl oriented, which makes me laugh. It’s fun to pass that down.

Jenny Clanton Bright (31 y/o) // sales rep for LifeHME // mother of Maddy the beagle // (cool) aunt // house fixer-upper (backyard shed currently under construction, with dad’s help!) // survivor of husband Tim Bright, diagnosed with colon cancer Jan. 25 2010 (27 y/o); passed away Oct. 4, 2014 (32 y/o) 

“Tim was the one who wanted the wedding. We were engaged for almost 18 months [when he was diagnosed]. Everything planned & everything done except getting out invitations – those final little things. We decided to make our lives as normal as possible, & try to make the cancer disappear in the background & not have to think about it. In the hospital, we were literally putting the bands around the invitations & getting everything stuffed into envelopes. Family & friends would come to visit, & we had them helping out in the assembly line getting everything together. That was early February; he started his first round of chemo March 3. The wedding ended up being a fun day. It ended up being a much bigger wedding than we could’ve ever anticipated having! We had a quick little mini-moon to Old Edwards Inn & came back for him to get his next round of chemo that Wednesday.

“I was so naïve at that point in time thinking, ‘Oh, he will have treatments & be in remission & be fine.’ Then the other part of it was we were just an instant thing, from the minute we saw each other when we met after college. I was planning on marrying him for so long that, for me, [the illness] was just part of the wedding vows – part of the ‘in sickness & in health.’ I guess my thing was, those don’t start the day that you say them; they start the day you decide to share the rest of your life with someone. For me, it wasn’t a choice. We were going to have a big wedding or get married in a courthouse, but one way or the other, I knew I wanted to marry him no matter where we were with everything.

“Obviously the hardest part now is him not being here – the constant companionship. We just were so bonded, you know? Another person who you can just feel off of – where they are, what they need – & you can communicate with without having to speak too much to each other. Having to reach out to people to explain what I’m thinking, what I’m feeling – it’s just extra work that for almost 10 years, I didn’t have to do. That’s been hard, but the other part of it is that we were so closely integrated with one another, I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t know what I like, what I want. We did everything together…we found things that we both liked, & then too many of those things became a reminder of Tim. It was months before I could even think of drinking a Coke.

“But God’s there where you need him. He shows up. All these mysterious things happen right when you need them to. Lately those things have held to be true more than I’ve ever seen before.

“Tim’s favorite number was 8. He was obsessed with that number, & all his jersey numbers were 35, or 17, or 53 & so on. The other night before that big lottery, I was really frustrated, & thinking about how I wished there was some clear & obvious sign that Tim was still around, & I was also kind of writing a list of things I needed to do or get the next day. I included getting cash at the ATM so I could buy a lottery ticket, & in that same moment, I was moving some stuff around & found $8 in cash. It’s things that I can’t really describe or make sense for – weird stuff that when you’re experiencing it, it’s completely surreal. There’s a bigger power watching over me.”

Sister Dorothy Brogan (80 y/o) // nurse & practitioner of love @ Bon Secours St. Francis Health System // Irishwoman // avid reader // fan of walks, swims, classical music & art // survivor of sister Maureen (passed in ’82 from lung cancer); currently surviving with the many people she serves

“I was born in Donegal, in the northwest of Ireland. Bon Secours brought me to Greenville through a very long road! I have worked as a nurse for 60 years, most of the time with oncology; but we didn’t call it that way back in my day. In the Depression, my parents lost everything they had in the U.S. My father’s parents had a farm in Ireland, so they went back there from Philadelphia; but the 3 of us ended up coming back here when I was 17, because Ireland was in a depression itself in those days – there was nothing there. So we were immigrants!

“I met the Sisters of Bon Secours when I finished my schooling, & I don’t know – I just found them attractive. I just wanted to be a nurse, & that was their calling. In the beginning of our congregation, most of us were Sisters, & that changed along the way; but the particular calling of our congregation was to care for the sick & dying in their homes. Women didn’t have many opportunities in those days, so you became a housewife, a secretary, a nun or a teacher – so it’s all related to what was going on in society at the time. It’s about evolution! I worked with hospice; then I came here, & I did chaplaincy with hospice & home health patients. Presently I am working as a chaplain at the St. Francis Cancer Center.

“Day-to-day I visit the patients that come on their first visit for chemo. Mostly I just listen. I really, really listen. I try to hear where their pain is, & most often, I receive so much more than I ever give – it’s a give & receive. My faith & my life are enriched because of the experiences I’ve shared with people on a journey of suffering. That’s a mission of the Sisters of Bon Secours: to be good help to those in need.

“Suffering is a mystery, & it’s only revealed in the depths of a relationship with someone. I think through the relationships I’ve developed working with cancer patients, I’ve seen that when we are vulnerable & needing, we are so much more open to love. I journey with [patients] just as a person; I share their history, & share their pain in that moment, but also with their families. You see the pain, the love & the commitment of spouses – couples that have been married for years. You just walk with them. Just listen; be there with them; just walk along. Be there on the days were there is desperation & depression & hopelessness. It’s just about being present. It doesn’t matter what they believe in – I think it’s the love dimension. I find that faithful presence is being faithful to show up, to be there, to be sensitive to others. I often meet with people, & we don’t say a word. If they reach out to me, I hold the hand. I see the tears come down, & I hold the hand. I don’t say anything, because what is there to say?

“Prayer is powerful, because I believe that being present is prayer, in a certain way. When a person is sharing their struggle, or their rollercoaster journey with cancer, that’s their prayer: struggling to live with this, struggling to believe there is a God who loves with them in the midst of this apparently hopeless & desperate situation. Especially the caregivers, the significant others – they often suffer more than the person being treated, because of the feeling of hopelessness. That was Jesus’s prayer when he was suffering – ‘My God, my God, have You abandoned me?’ – so my experience is THAT is prayer.

“We all deal with things differently. We react differently. As far as suffering, I would encourage a person to go deep inside the self & discover where he or she might find meaning. I would try to get the person to explore his or her own inner journey. I don’t give advice…I think we have to find our own meaning. I think we have to explore the things that happen to us by exploring what’s important to us. It’s a big struggle! It doesn’t just happen – it’s a huge journey."

 

Bob Cardone // husband, father & grandfather // retiree (formerly in IT management @ Michelin North America // active volunteer with SCORE, Us TOO, American Cancer Society & Meals on Wheels // world traveler // survivor of prostate cancer (diagnosed & cleared in 2013)

“I was diagnosed in early May of 2013 with prostate cancer. It was very well advanced, despite the fact that I had physicals & PSA tests every year. I had robotic prostatectomy surgery in June – June 6th as of a matter of fact – D Day. I was supposed to retire at the end of June from Michelin North America & go on a retirement cruise with my beautiful wife, Sandy, though the cancer put a little damper on retirement plans. (She & our family have been very supportive during this journey.) Despite the staging of [the cancer], I was rather lucky I didn’t have to have any other treatment whatsoever; which surprised some of the doctors, frankly, because it was so advanced. But the surgery was so successful that I was able to get away without any additional treatment.

“There’s a benchmark when they do those PSA tests, which are blood tests: if the number is around 4 or greater, [the doctors] start to raise the flag a little bit. As you get older, that number can be a little bit higher & not be a problem. But once it gets between 4 & 10, there’s a 25% chance statistically that it could be prostate cancer. Mine had played around in the 4 - 5 range for 1 ½ - 2 years; there were no other symptoms. Having said that, the doctors were not convinced enough to say I needed to have a biopsy done. Hindsight being 20/20, had I known what I know today about it – I’ve done a lot of studying on it – I would’ve made sure it was done earlier. At the end of the day, did it make much difference? Fortunately it has not appeared to, because my recovery has been great; but it could’ve. Had I not had an annual physical that April, & [the tests] showed [the PSA number] had bounced up again, then in all probability [the cancer] would have spread to other parts of my body, & I would not be a happy camper right now. So it’s testimony to the need to have testing done – & the blood test is a very simple, painless thing.

“Surgery was very, very easy, because it was simple. I had no problems. I went back for my first checkup in 3 months, & [the cancer] was gone. I recovered very, very well. I retired a month later, at the end of July. We started to travel & do a lot of things in the area. I am very active in volunteering. I spend maybe 15 - 20 hours a week with an organization called SCORE. It’s basically a partner of the Small Business Administration, & we do a lot of outreach to people trying to start their own business, & mentoring and so forth. I run education for the Upstate chapter – I run about 75 workshops a year. In a given year, we will probably touch over a 1000 people with our workshops. I’m also on the executive team with the Us TOO prostate cancer support organization, & beginning this month, I am now part of the American Cancer Society of Greenville County Executive Leadership Council. Besides that, I do Meals on Wheels every other week – so I have kept very active in volunteering & in the community. To cite the words of my wife, she doesn’t think I ever really retired! I got involved with all of this after retirement. We also do a lot of traveling. We travel to different places 6-7 times a year. We stay busy! It’s enjoyable.”

 

Zeb (11 ½ y/o), as told by owner Thornton Kirby // chocolate lab // loving canine devoted to Thornton & Jim Kirby (brother & father of Survivor Series photographer Mark) // survivor of a prosthetic cyst (abdomen); mast cell tumors (skin); & currently surviving lymphoma  

Dogs are pretty special. They're our partners, our wingmen & our teammates. They are protectors, herders, retrievers, search & rescuers, providers of service & comfort. They guard our children, our homes, & our livestock. They watch over us, hunt with us, walk with us, sniff for us, listen for (& to) us, sit with us, play with us, & let us hold them while we cry. Dogs share our lives with us, & in doing so they help us live; they are home, & they are family.

So it made sense to specifically incorporate these best friends of ours into our Survivor Series, because you know what? They can be cancer survivors, too – just like Zeb, this 11 ½-year old chocolate lab, who is currently undergoing treatment for lymphoma.

But there’s a greater reason we felt it was important to highlight dogs in the Survivor Series: Dogs teach us how to love & nurture. As someone who has been a full-time caretaker for someone fighting cancer, I think that there are a lot of parallels in the rewards & lessons of that experience & in this ancient pact of man & dog. Both teach us about “unqualified devotion” (to use the words of Zeb’s owner, below) to another being through a relationship bound by complete trust & selflessness. It is through this symbiotic legacy of man & dog that we first learn how to be in tune & useful to another being, even when language as an expressive faculty isn’t an option.

I think that I speak for all our featured Survivors when I contend that the rewards of love are not found through the ambiguity of emotion, but through the act of love itself – rewards many of us have most profoundly realized through our dealings with cancer. No matter what side you’re on – that of leading & feeding, or needing to be led & fed – it is through these acts that we discover the most beautiful parts of living & of living together.

It won’t be long until we’ll all have a grand new place to walk, play, sit, heal & celebrate life with our dogs…Shiloh (my collie, who was appropriately featured with me in the Series a few months ago) & I can’t wait to see you in the Park!

Written by Emily Price, Survivor Series editor & interviewer
____________

“Zeb has lymphoma, & hopefully he’ll be a two-time cancer survivor! He had a knot on his snout; a big lump that just all of sudden appeared…He’s getting chemo now. They decided there was no need to do surgery [this time, though he had tumors removed the first time]. Mark & I’s mom died of lymphoma…It’s is a system-wide cancer, so you can’t really fix it with surgery. The first chemo – he did not respond well to; the mass continued to grow, so they switched up the formula a little bit. The first was intravenous, but this one is oral. He takes it with treats.

“They don’t give dogs doses of chemo that are toxic enough for them to lose their hair. Humans understand what’s going on, & why they are losing their hair – but animals don’t. They don’t push animals that far with their treatments, & the result is that they don’t get as long of a remission. We’re kind of watching the intersection of cancer & arthritis, & which one will be a bigger problem with him down the road.

“[The great part about dogs] is the unqualified devotion; they are constantly happy to see you. I’m driving up to home right now, & they’re running out to the car. It’s the companionship, the constancy of affection & loyalty. There’s a lot of medical literature that suggests that animals are good for blood pressure & stress & everything else. But you don’t get a dog because you want to lower your blood pressure. You get a dog because you love having a companion that’s always around you, & there is some gratification in taking care of another creature that depends on us, & returns that with loyalty & devotion. It’s different than raising a child or taking care of an elderly parent – a different level of dependence; the all-out dependence & reverence for you as the master, or the alpha. They bond with their pack leader.”

Gloria Gonzalez (56 y/o) // wife of Luis (pictured) // ace DIYer // hobbyist craftswoman & painter // gardener // Texan // survivor of breast cancer (diagnosed in ’96 & ’06) & ovarian cancer (diagnosed in ’08, ’10, ’13)

“Seven of my family members have had breast cancer, & 2 have had ovarian cancer. I’m unique in that I have survived both.

“I was first diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 36. I was afraid this dreaded disease was going to take me like it did my mother, who passed away when she was only 40. I had a mastectomy on my right breast…I have to say, the prosthesis wasn’t fun. It was a constant reminder of a battle lost but a war won. Then 10 years later, my other breast got cancer. You can imagine how angry I was that this disease was claiming another portion of my body. This time I decided against chemo, but I underwent breast reconstruction. I felt I was too young to lose my self-image -- darn those supermarket magazines!

“I wish this was the end of the story, but 2 years later, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The disease is bad enough, but the timing was worse. My husband [Luis] got a new job, & we were planning to move to SC. It was quite a test of spirit to have surgery & chemo while being apart from each other; but all went well & after 6 weary months, I joined him in Greenville.

“In 2010, I had some discomfort on my right side. The CT scan showed no evidence of cancer, but I agreed to have laparoscopic surgery to remove my gallbladder, & they found ovarian cancer on top of my liver. Even the doctor was surprised with what he saw. I believe it was divine intervention that guided me to have surgery once more. In 2013 cancer came calling for my spleen, & I had to sacrifice another body part in my war against this disease. Then yet again, 2 years later, I began experiencing some digestive problems & thought, ‘Might the enemy be knocking at my door once more?’ Though I was diagnosed with abscess diverticulitis, a follow up colonoscopy revealed ovarian cancer cells in my colon. Once again, divine intervention led to the discovery. A partial colectomy was done & once again, I decided not to do chemo, even though the doctor strongly recommended it based on my history. But I believed God was leading me, & I wasn’t afraid.

“…Wow! I’m a cancer survivor of 19 years already…I have been blessed over & over again. My last CT scan showed NO evidence of disease and my CA125 blood work was low.

“My husband has been my strength & my rock. He makes me laugh when all I want to do is cry or be angry. He’s dealt with this terrible disease with faith as well. You might say he’s been a prisoner of war in my battles with cancer. I’ve also been blessed with good friends, neighbors & family members, who see me as normal and don’t treat me like someone who has been afflicted by cancer, or like I have a contagious disease. There are so many of us from different ages, races & religions that are affected by cancer; but at the end of the day, we are all the same. We are one…Modern medicine has been a big help for many of us. It’s created treatments so that cancer is no longer a death sentence. A positive attitude goes a long way. I always say that when we’re at a low point, there are others who are worse off than we are; I need to focus on my abilities & not my disabilities, & to cherish what I have now.”

 

 

 

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