Jonathan is a pastor in Colorado Springs, Colo. He was diagnosed with duodenal cancer in March 2006 and had a pancreaticoduodenectomy (also known as the Whipple procedure) in April. He also received chemotherapy (Xeloda) and had 28 radiation treatments.
There is a reason why the Whipple procedure is often referred to as the "mother of all surgeries." The surgery, treatment and recovery are described as physically grueling and intense. Having experienced it firsthand, I concur wholeheartedly.
To further compound my situation, I encountered an even great juggernaut -- the emotional and mental impact of a cancer diagnosis. And, if this wasn't enough, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with the same cancer two months prior to my diagnosis. The doctor who treated me also treated her at MD Anderson.
Although my mother-in-law did not survive her cancer, she paved the wave for my treatment and success. If I had not been doing research on her cancer, I don't think I would have ever discovered mine.
Meeting the challenge
These concurrent cancer diagnoses brought a hurricane of epic proportions into my life and into the lives of my family. The symptoms of loneliness, isolation and hopelessness seemed even greater than the cancer.
Although the road to recovery has been rocky, if not impassable at times, I'm ecstatic to report that I just celebrated my fifth year cancer free.
These days I spend my time writing a book, doing motivational speaking, volunteering for the Anderson Network and encouraging people to get to MD Anderson as fast as they can if they have cancer.
My bucket list is getting bigger by the day, and I love living to "live the dream." One of my biggest dreams was born shortly after my surgery. I looked at my wife and said, "Jennifer, I wanna be one of those people on the MD Anderson website who has a picture with a line drawn through the name of their cancer."
Praising his support team
All I can say right now is, "Thanks MD Anderson! I've just enjoyed five great years of my best life -- and they were almost as good as my next five are going to be!"
I am eternally grateful to my MD Anderson team of doctors, especially Eddie Abdalla, M.D., the nurses and the counselors, and for the support I have received from my cancer family. Each of these people has contributed to the road I now travel -- a road of blessing. This road is paved with a greater appreciation for life, family and God.
"Cause I've got faith of the heart,
I'm going where my heart will take me.
I've got faith to believe
I can do anything.
I've got strength of the soul,
And no one's gonna bend or break me.
I can reach any star −
I've got faith,
I've got faith,
Faith of the heart."