Steve Fox, of El Paso, is president and chief executive officer of Fox Auto Group. He has been a member of the MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors since 2002 and serves on its Cancer Control Advisory Group. An 18-year cancer survivor, he is active with the Rio Grande Cancer Foundation, the Paso del Norte Health Foundation and the JLV Memorial Foundation, which encourages men to be proactive about their health and understand the importance of early detection. After his cancer diagnosis, Fox pursued his love of off-road motorcycle racing, accomplishing his goal to win a national championship in 2004. He and his wife, Nancy, have two grown daughters and recently celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary.
With the arrival of the new millennium in 2000, everyone was excited about the future. Mine, however, didn’t unfold as expected. In January of that year, some symptoms I’d been dealing with for months began to alarm me. A lump on my throat continued to grow. Two doctors assured me it was nothing to worry about, probably allergies affecting a lymph node.
Sometimes you have to follow your instincts, and in this case I was fortunate that I took it upon myself to go to a general practitioner. He was immediately alarmed and told me to go to an ear, nose and throat specialist. I made an appointment with Dr. Eddie Goldman, who removed a lymph node, thinking it might be benign. It was malignant.
I’m blessed that Dr. Goldman made an appointment at MD Anderson. This was a serious, potentially life-ending disease, and I knew my best chance was in Houston.
At MD Anderson, doctors diagnosed stage IV squamous cell carcinoma, with the primary tumor at the base of my tongue and cancer activity in both sides of my neck. I went on the internet and learned that at best 35% of patients with this type of cancer had a two-year survival rate. I was 48 years old, with two daughters, 14 and 11. I had just achieved a milestone in my career, which I began as a shop boy at the age of 15, by becoming a majority stockholder of an auto group.
I decided to do everything I possibly could to extend my life and survive. As inconvenient as it was, I needed to stay in Houston for seven weeks of radiation treatment. The MD Anderson staff was so compassionate and accommodated my schedule so I could go home on the weekends. It was all about the patient.
I completed my cancer treatment locally, but fortunately my doctors in El Paso had had the wisdom to bring in an ally. Eighteen years later, I’m cancer-free.
After cancer treatment, I was overwhelmed by a new fear, an uncertainty about the effectiveness of the treatment. Did it work?
I’ve learned that the anxiety I experienced is very common, and that I can make a choice to enjoy my life now. I’ve developed a philosophy that cancer’s not going to win today. I’ll go to a movie with my wife, or simply enjoy the day. And if the cancer does come back, I’ll go back to MD Anderson and beat it again.
Promise invites cancer survivors to share their reflections. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.