Thursday, August 10 I was honored to walk celebrating breast and lung cancer survivor Jessica Grant. I walked 12 miles in honor of Jessica’s journey and am delighted to share that Jessica and husband Brion are at the Grand Canyon North Rim this week celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. I know that you are getting in some walking and amazing views from the north rim. Happy Anniversary. And, many, many more!!
Today I walk in honor and celebration of Robert and Carol Pippin. Robert found a lump in the lower portion of his jaw and his next-door neighbor, an Ear Nose and Throat doctor looked at it and recommended he have it biopsied, yet Robert ignored it for about a year. The next-door neighbor followed up and asked if he had it examined and scheduled a biopsy. Robert was diagnosed in 2016 with stage four squamous cell carcinoma at the base of the tongue and entrance into the esophagus which had metastasized into surrounding areas.
Five days later his wife Carol was diagnosed with colon cancer which had metastasized to her liver and gall bladder. Carol had been experiencing nausea and pain and visited their primary care doctor. The doctor felt around in her torso area and was alarmed by what he felt. Carol was at the cancer center the next day for testing.
Treatment for Robert was 10 rounds of chemotherapy and 33 rounds of head and neck radiation. The radiologist was very solemn at their first meeting because of how painful the treatment is. He apologized for how much pain Robert was going to endure. Robert knew from day one it was something he had to do. At radiation treatment 24 or 25 he was ready to stop because of the pain and intensity. His radiation team responded, “we will see you tomorrow, Mr. Pippin.” He went through two different radiation masks because of his 78-pound weight loss during treatment.
Treatment for Carol was chemotherapy in the infusion room and through a “push” treatment at home. A surgical procedure removed a portion of her colon and an ablation on the liver and removed the gallbladder. All three procedures were miraculously performed through the same two-inch incision.
Robert reflected, “We had so many interventions that I can’t remember them all. Every day something noteworthy happened with people who stepped up to help. Friends from high school shared stories and a book written by another cancer patient with the same diagnosis”. On his first day of chemotherapy someone called his name from across the infusion room, and it was his AA sponsor, someone he was very close with although they had not been in touch in a couple of years. This friend was doing volunteer work in the cancer center and every day that Robert and Carol were in the infusion room, he came to spend time with them to make sure they did not face any of their chemo treatments without support. This is one of those “interventions” that connected them with just the right person at just the right time.
Robert’s brother David took him to most treatments, while David and Carol’s mom provided all the care they needed at home by moving into the house and caring for both of them for nine months as husband and wife underwent different cancer journeys simultaneously. Robert had a feeding tube the entire time because he could not swallow at all and sleep became a very important part of his healing process.
Both Robert and Carol passed the five-year mark beyond treatment, and both are cancer-free. Carol is incredibly grateful to be alive. They have friends and colleagues in their lives who have had the same cancer diagnosis, and some have survived while others have not. They have engaged in numerous conversations around “Why me, Lord? What are we going to do to take the experience, the strength and hope built to share with others?” Robert shared, “I felt fortunate from the very beginning of the cancer journey. I feel fortunate that I survived, and I want to share my story to strengthen others.” Robert is seeking those to whom he can offer support through their cancer journey by sharing his story and God’s grace. He recently shared his story with a pastor whose cancer had metastasized who really needed to hear the story. “We lifted one another up during this amazing time we had together.” He is honored to share his story with those who need to hear it.
Robert shared that he feels very healthy now and that his cancer journey was quite a growing experience. He is so grateful for his AA time that gave him 12 years of sober living before his cancer diagnosis. “It is a miracle, and I am very fortunate that I am now celebrating 19 years of sobriety, by God’s grace, and I am cancer free.” Robert Pippin