I had the pleasure of sitting down with Tom a couple weeks ago at a little pizza joint. He was kind enough to give me an hour of his time, before hitting the golf course with his friends.
Every survivor story is amazing. Every warrior touches my heart. Tom was no exception. He not only let me interview him, but he also seemed to interview me! I walked away from our time together feeling very awestruck and inspired. I walked away feeling motivated. I walked away basking in this new friendship.
You see, Tom didn’t want to do the interview. He was very straight forward that he would ONLY do it, if I promised him nothing in return. No presents, no monetary help. He wanted to share his story, because he hopes to help others, just as you will learn in the following that others have done for him.
Job Title: Engineer
Hobbies: Golf, watch sports, bicycling, camping and outdoor activities, spending time with children and grandchild
Cancer you battled: Stage 3 plus rectal cancer, spread to prostate
Can you tell us a little about your story?
I was diagnosed May 17, 2017. We scheduled a colonoscopy, which I had on the second day of living in our new house. They told me right away in the recovery room that it was cancer. Everything went very fast and with precision from there. My treatment was in three stages – 1 – combo chemo/radiation (several months), break -2- surgery in October. It was a very long recovery with some complications. Stage 3- chemo therapy follow up again to make sure all cancer was caught, which was twelve rounds of treatment for that. It was in late August of 2018 that I had my final chemo treatment.
I currently go in for follow up for three months and then six months next treatment and will now go up to 12 month follow ups.
We all have inner superpowers (a.k.a. character qualities). What are some of yours?
I have a good sense of humor, helps make the bet of a bad situation.
What brings you joy and fulfillment (your work, your passions, your dreams, etc.)?
My family: my wife, my kids and my grandchild. You really realize what is important when you have the chance to lose it all. I can live without a lot of things in life, but not my family. I am also lucky to have good friends.
What Does It Mean To Be A Cancer Survivor (Real life warrior)?
It means opportunities that I am so thankful for, that I hope to take advantage of. Unfortunately, many well deserving people I know didn’t get to the opportunity I have to appreciate a second chance.
Can you tell us about an influential person(s) who helped you during your battle or throughout your life?
That list is really long. I think that was a huge key to my approach. My parents. My dad was a WW2 veteran. They went through struggles that we knew nothing about. They approached life by solving a problem and moving on. Particularly in their later years, they were in a car accident that paralyzed her from the waist down. My dad took care of her at home, never put her in a nursing home. This happened when they were in their 70’s.
Tom is a friend of ours, he had a very bad cancer diagnosis several years ago. I watched his approach. This was long before my diagnosis, but I always thought if I ever had to fight it I would like to do it the way he did.
A friend who lost their battle. She inspired me and I wonder “why her”.
It has been a blessing to have had this diagnosis later in life, so I am hoping my story can inspire others to take this approach.
What are some key things that helped you (mentally and physically) during the midst of your battle?
Once I knew about, I always broke it down in pieces. Trying to look at it in totality can be very overwhelming. By just breaking it down step by step, it made it more manageable.
Tremendous support from my wife! I can’t even describe the benefit of having a rock solid partner that is there.
Finding out and having a lot of friends and family, friends I didn’t even really have, reaching out to myself and my family was really powerful.
Knowing what you know as a cancer survivor, what words of wisdom would you give to someone else battling cancer?
Don’t ignore the symptoms. The biggest thing is believe in your plan and once you do, just do it. Attack this and don’t look back!
“It’s more about the ride than the destination”. It isn’t going to be fun, but there are so many positive things that you can find in this journey. Embrace those and shed away the bad stuff.
Role models are important.
“There’s a million dollars worth of experience and I wouldn’t pay a nickel for it” – his dad
Men in particular tend to want to think everything will be fine and don’t want to get the preventative tests. Accept the help. There are a lot of people out there who want to help. There is a lot of positive energy out there. I want to help. If there’s anything I can say or do that would help someone, that would be my crowning achievement.
What caregivers go through is so unrecognized and so under appreciated. Tami, Britt and Sam were huge in this. Even my granddaughter Olivia was a huge blessing during this. She has such great energy and was so good to be around.