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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thoughts on Being Diagnosed with Cancer

Screening & Diagnosis
The Curtis family has been plagued with cancer for generations. It seems that most of the time there is a Curtis either battling cancer or dying of cancer. Over the years I have seen how cancer torments it's victims with fear and pain, and how it disables entire families with the stress of finances, scheduling medical visits and emotional turmoil. After the death of my uncle Beachel about one year ago when I thought to myself "who's next", I never dreamed it would be me.

Over the past 7 months I began noticing some small changes in my health. I had gained weight, developed a urinary tract infection and seen small streaks of blood in my stool. I went to the Warren County Health Department, where I was treated for the infection. While there the doctors urged me to get a colonoscopy due to my age. The colonoscopy was entirely painless and was completed in less than half a day. I was informed of a mass that was discovered in my sigmoid colon, and a biopsy had been taken during the colonoscopy. The biopsy came back as cancerous.

I was referred to a surgeon who would be removing the tumor along with several inches of my lower colon and several surrounding lymph nodes. Still a fluid situation, I am unsure about the extent of the cancer and what my situation will be after leaving the hospital. My hope is to be back to normal after recovery, but realize that there is still a possibility that I may need to have chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Let me say that all in all, the screening is EASY. The diagnosis is downright scary. I have been fortunate to have family members and close friends with me throughout every meeting and test that has been done. I took the news better than I thought I would. The doctors have been compassionate and understanding. I can tell that they may be used to people breaking down, crying and being scared.

As of yet I have not broken down crying. I have continued with my normal life while going through pre-surgery testing and doctor appointments. At times I am in my yard and suddenly think "Oh God, I have cancer". It's a surreal feeling, almost like it's someone else's life or body I'm in. Then a few seconds later I go on about my business.

When the news came yesterday that there could be more tissue removed, I realized for the first time that my life may not be the same afterward. I may never go to the bathroom as I did before. Getting that news was very difficult. It's honestly an almost out-of-body experience. I felt as though my spirit had to rise above me for a few minutes to allow my body to not panic, faint or burst into tears. I am PETRIFIED and more fearful than I have ever been in my life.

On the other hand I realize I am alive and the process I am about to go through may keep me alive and pain-free for many more years. I also think of all the other people in the world in worse condition than myself. That is the main thought that keeps me going: It could be much much worse. I think of Job in the Hebrew Bible and know that my faith must grow rather than diminish. This is not something that God did to me, nor is it a test or a payback for my past. It is simply a bad thing that happened to a person, and bad things happen to people every day. I also think of Hunter Bernhardt, a child, a cancer survivor. I do not know Hunter, but I see his lluminarias at Relay, decorated with superhero stickers and such. I know that if he can do this, so can I. He is an inspiration to someone he has never even met. And I think of my dear friend Judy, a manager at Walmart who I saw last night. I told her I have been diagnosed with cancer. She looked at me with a stern look I have never seen in her before and said "FIGHT!" That single word was like a burst of empowerment that was thrust into me from across the isle.

Cancer Prevention Study
I enrolled in the Cancer Prevention Study the first week that enrollment began this past spring. I knew right away that it was something I wanted to do. They need my help. So simple and easy, all I had to do was go online and fill out a survey. I was given an appointment time on August 16 to come into the Chamber of Commerce downtown to complete enrollment.

After my diagnosis I realized that I can no longer participate in the Study, as one has to have never had cancer in order to enroll. But then I thought that they would want to know about my diagnosis. I knew that I was the first person in their study diagnosed with cancer, but over the years I will not be the last. Those statistics will be important to them.

They need your help. I urge everyone out there to become involved in the study. It won't help me get rid of my cancer or reverse my diagnosis, but it might keep my decedents from getting cancer. It might save the life of your grandchild.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Big 'C'

I want to share with everyone my recent bad news. Two days ago I was diagnosed with colon cancer. I'm in the process of having tests to find out if it has spread or if there are any other masses anywhere else. Right now the plan is to remove the tumor next Thursday. It will be major abdominal surgery removing about one foot of my colon and about 8 weeks of recovering. As the days go by I will find
 out more about the intensity of the cancer and make plans accordingly.

I continue to be captain of our youth team and continue work hard for Relay with our Dancing With Our Stars fund raiser this November. Everyone's support and prayers comfort me.

Thank you to everyone who joins the fight against cancer through Relay for Life. Your hard work and compassion will help to end this killer in the near future. Our work is of utmost importance.

Thanks for listening. Keep me in your thoughts as I take some time to fight for myself. And in the words of the Trojans- FIGHT ON!

Darryl Curtis, M.A.
Curtistown Youth Team