It’s been a crazy 5 years. Nancy’s brain tumor diagnosis, her treatment first with chemo and radiation, 3.5 yrs. of every 2 months sitting on pins and needles as time approached for the next PET scan, later the tumor recurrence and treatment at the Duke Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center with a modified Polio Virus, 60 Minutes following our family’s journey, the ups and downs of the treatment as her immune system was awakened to the cancer with devastating side effects, Nancy’s stroke, my triple bypass surgery, her decline as the tumor grew and I recovered from the bypass surgery, her subsequent death, then a couple of months later my diagnosis with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer (adenocarcinoma), months of chemo, then kidney stones, again the pins and needles as I await my PET scan results every 3 months, and a threatened plant closing to boot.
I had come through it all with a positive attitude and an uplifted spirit. And why not? Even though things were rough at times, even horrifying, we were blessed beyond reason in so many ways. We found we were loved by many and had some of our best days after the diagnosis. We finally comprehended the gold mine we had been sitting on. People liked being around me because my positive attitude was contagious.
At my last PET scan which came back clear, I joked with my doctor that at least 4 people survived 5 years after being diagnosed with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer. He looked at me solemnly and said those are people with a certain protein up-regulated and they had a drug for that. I didn’t have that protein up-regulated. He said if I wanted to do something with my boys to do it now, don’t wait. I asked if I still qualified for Long Term Disability. He said I qualified, by all means take disability and spend time with loved ones while I still had a modicum of health. I talked it over with my boss, co-owner of Regal, and he encouraged me to do the same.
I had worked for Regal a total of 30 yrs. and managed the plant in Valdosta 13 yrs. Even though in my current condition it has become exceedingly difficult to lead 125 plus people, it was hard walking away from a job I had poured my heart into for so long and away from the people I worked with, many of whom I had come to love.
So I took their advice and I’m spending time traveling with friends and family. My sons and I spent a week in the National Parks in Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. I was home for 5 days and then flew to Brazil for 10 days with friends and my oldest son Zach who had just graduated from Georgia Tech. Then I was off for a week to the Bahamas on Elbow Cay where the owners of Regal had provided a house and a 33’ luxury performance boat for me and friends. I have several more trips in the works.
I intend to spend whatever time I have left with friends, family, and traveling. I also hope to finish writing the story of our family’s last 5 years, speak on occasion about thriving through such adversity, and help others who are facing similar situations.
Even though things have been rough, I have been tremendously blessed along the way. At least I’ve lead an interesting life lately, and the forecast is for more of the same.
Hopefully my epitaph will read he learned to live well and he died good.
Stay tuned for the rest of the story.