Fearing and Facing Cancer

While I’m excited to celebrate my birthday in Las Vegas in three weeks, when I head to Chicago on October 10th to fly out the next day, I’ll be having my annual physical.  As I get closer to a milestone (yes, it’s still a couple of years away) birthday, I think more and more of my family’s medical history.

I’ve always said that if heredity really does play a role in your health (and I believe it does), then my sister, Tammy, could be doomed to die from a heart attack since our mother died from one in 1990 and her mother, Reba, died of a heart attack in 1963.  While I hope it isn’t an omen to her mortality, my sister had a heart attack last December and stents put in her heart the December before that!

This is Tammy and my mother, Dessie, on my mother’s birthday in 1986.

Being a sexually active gay man and being blessed with youth in the past, my biggest concern was not cancer, but HIV.  Luckily, that test has always been negative.  Now, as I approach 50, there I said it, I’m thinking more and more about the c-word.

Back in 1999, I had a biopsy done on a mole on my arm, but it wasn’t cancer.  And, about ten years ago, I had to have an ultrasound after my doctor found an abnormal testicular lump that, luckily, turned out to be a calcification and not cancer.  I know, TMI.  But, FYI, the chances of a man getting testicular cancer is about 1 in 270.  It’s the most common cancer in males aged 20–39 years, but it has an almost 100% cure rate if caught before it spreads.

My grandfather, John Henry, the greatest man I’ve ever known, succumbed to colon cancer at the age of 72 in 1978.  Here are my grandparents, Helen and John at his last Christmas in 1977.

My father, Hollie, died of brain cancer on Valentine’s Day 1987.  He was 55.

While I mentioned before that I think more of cancer as I near my physical, the real reason I was inspired to blog about it today is that I just learned that one of my favorite country singers from the mid-to-late-1990s was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer last December at the age of 42.

Wade Hayes, who moved to Nashville from Oklahoma in the early-1990s, wanted to be a guitarist and harmony singer.  However, Columbia Records signed him to a contract and his first song, “Old Enough To Know Better” topped the country chart in 1995.  I remember taking several buses in Chicago to get to to suburban Best Buy to buy the CD of the same name.

He followed that up with four more top ten songs, “I’m Still Dancing With You” (#4, 1995), “Don’t Stop” (#10, 1995), “What I Meant To Say” (#5, 1996), and “On A Good Night” (#2, 1996).  He had other Top 40 country hits and would score one more top ten, 1997’s “The Day She Left Tulsa (In A Chevy), which peaked at #5.  His final Top 40 hit was “How Do Sleep At Night”, which reached #13 in 1998.  Sadly, radio stopped playing his music and one of my favorite of his, “Up North (Down South, Back East, Out West)” only reached #48 in 2000.

Opening up about his fight with cancer, Wade tells Billboard Magazine, “I was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer.  Stage four means it had become mobile and had spread throughout my body. When we found out how far the disease had spread, the initial diagnosis was that I had a one in sixteen chance of survival.”

Doctors performed surgery in December 2011 and began an aggressive treatment program.  The last tumors were removed in March 2012.  Hayes adds, “It was nothing short of a miracle.  I thank God everyday that he saw fit to keep me around. Through a great team of surgeons at Vanderbilt in Nashville, they were able to get all of the cancer, which they had never considered going in. I heard they were high-fiving each other when they got done. It was a long surgery, and it was tough on me. But, I am currently cancer free. Obviously, it takes a long time to get over that, and there are a lot of secondary things and issues you have to deal with when you have cancer that severe.”

He knows that he’s not out of the woods, “The one fear that we have now is it coming back. Once it spreads, there is always the chance of it coming back, so we’re trying to combat it through diet and keeping a close eye on it.”

While touring as a guitarist for Alabama’s lead singer, Randy Owen, Wade ignored the bleeding thinking it was a hemorrhoid from weightlifting.  He thought the fatigue was from extensive touring.  It wasn’t until he was in so much pain after his intestine collapsed in on itself that he was hospitalized over Thanksgiving 2011 for tests.

As anyone who has fought cancer and won will tell you, early detection is vital and Wade agrees, “The key to it is catching the disease early. Colon Cancer is one of the leading killers in the United States for men and women, but it’s also one of the most treatable if you catch it early enough. I ignored my symptoms, and just attributed them to something else until it was too late. I certainly don’t want that to happen to someone else. That’s the reason for recording and releasing this song – to raise awareness, and try to get people to get tested earlier than I did.”

In honor of Wade’s courageous fight, here are my favorite songs of his and the new one, “Is It Already Time”.  Wade, may you have a speedy recovery and thank you for opening up and sharing your story.

This is one my favorite Wade Hayes songs and although no video was released, I still wanted to share it with you.

And, here is the new song about the cancer fight that is available at itunes and amazon.

Anthony

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17 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Athena Gilbraith on September 22, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Awww I love ya Anthony. Everything will be ok. You take great care of yourself and do the right things. If you are interested more in fighting cancer, my friends Alex and Emily Arguello own Great River Chiropractic and are extremely educated in fighting and prevention of cancer. They’re very passionate about health and prevention.

    Take care my friend.

    Reply

    • Athena,

      Thank you very much for the info and contacts. As you said, I do the right things and I don’t sit and pontificate about it much. But, it does cross my mind sometimes.

      Take care,
      AP

      Reply

  2. Age 50 years is the time for your first colonoscopy to give you a baseline for future testing It is the gold standard for early detection. Nothing to it-just do it!

    Reply

  3. Posted by Elaine on September 22, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Very interesting reading, Anthony.Enjoyed it very much.

    Reply

  4. Anthony, Such a good blog. Yes, Yes, Yes, be sure to stay on top of your health and make sure you get tested for any kind of cancer, especially if there is a family history of it. My beloved brother Robbie died from multiple myeloma several years ago, and this was an aggressive bone cancer. Cancer is a terrible disease that doesn’t care who it touches. I know your blog will help people get thinking about their own health. Thanks for sharing! Michelle

    Reply

    • Michelle,

      Thank you very much for your kind words. Yes, I remember you and I talking about Robbie before. My thoughts are with you and I’m glad you have such great memories to remember him by.

      Other than giving me an avenue to write, my blog does have good intentions, too. 🙂 (However, I know I get people riled up sometimes over social issues, politics, and religion!)

      Take care, my friend,
      AP

      Reply

  5. Posted by babiedoll454 on September 22, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    You are such a wonderful guy anthony, You will be fine. Just remember to get your annual checkups. Make sure that when being intimate, you have your mind on what is happening at that moment, YOU AND RAY, If you and ray get your check ups regularly then the two of you can then enjoy your life together as a couple for the rest of your lives together. Please learn to relax and enjoy life. This was gods plan for you and ray. You love each other, and nothing else should matter. Love ya both

    Reply

  6. Thank you very much for the kind words. I’m a safety guy. 🙂 (I love when Julia Roberts saying the female version of that in “Pretty Woman”.) But, as we know, nothing it 100%.

    Relaxing, what’s that? One day I want to find out.

    Take care and have a great rest of the weekend.

    AP

    Reply

  7. Posted by Kerry Riley on September 22, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    My Dad was diganosed with stage 4 colo rectal cancer 2 years ago. He under went cemo and radtion today he is fine. No sign of cancer. But I am like you I worry. Besides my dad I have had a Great Aunt who survived Breast Cancer twice, cancer in her leg and finally passed away this past year from Lung Cancer (she never smoked a day in her life). I could go on and on with the family members who have had Cancer…. Cancer is a Horrible evil. It seems like no matter who you are, you have known someone with it. But you will be fine I am sure of it. 🙂 Think Happy thoughts…..

    Reply

  8. Kerry,

    I am happy to hear about your dad’s recovery after his scare two years ago! Sorry about your aunt. Cancer is pure evil!

    Take care and thank you.

    AP

    Reply

  9. Posted by DogmomDiva on September 23, 2012 at 9:32 am

    A good reminder for me to get that long overdue mammogram..I had a colonoscopy 5 years ago, nothing was found but they recommended I have another in a couple years..that was 3 years ago..the prep for me was the worst but I need to get that done too..its a mind thing..I will talk to my family dr. about it at my next checkup I promise..but the mammo thing needs to be done, I will call tomorrow for an appt.
    Take good care of yourself, live each day at a time, and hopefully your family history will bypass both you and Tammy:)

    Barb

    Reply

  10. Posted by susan c meador on September 26, 2013 at 5:42 am

    I have been on the Cancer receiving end and not all physicals catch what I had unless you ask.i had 1 mole on my back that itched after work..came home took a shower and it had grown about a 1/2 in. and turned black.i have always had it n should have had it taken off..was in middle on my bra line.doc snipped it off whole n forseed no problems..4 days later they called me to his office.Stage 3b Melanoma.goes to 4.i was in trouble.i have never been in a tanning booth but tanned outside a bit as a teen.last time I had a tan was 1997..honestly!i had surgery..was in there 4 days.supposed to be in n out that day.they ended up cutting me from shoulder blade to shoulder blade..back flap surgery..then cancer treatment..1 full month of mon thru fri chemo(interferon) and then 11 months of giving myself shots at home 3 times a week(MWF).toward the end of it Interferon was leaking into my pancreas..stoped me 1 week early.had to have 3 colonopsys..and a breast biopsy 2 weeks after surgery..found a kernel in left and removed that.got down too 112 lbs..went on ice cream diet to gain it back..nothing else helped there.i went in with labor pains early on..3 days hospital..was colitis which is why the colonopsys..so u see unless u have a doc or dermatologist check u they cant tell u this one.oh n did u know for testicular cancer if u get a pregnancy test..men yes..it will tell u if u have it.same hormone us woman have when pregnant..if positive get to the doctor.sorry so long Anthony..good luck in your check ups..i shouls lite up like xmas I have had soo many scans.every inch has been checked.so far good but hope it doesn’t move too.i have Angels definetly.i also had 15 lymphnodes in 2 areas at 2 difffrent times removed.when they done my 1st they did lymphs n flipped me over n did my back..they about lost me ther..doc started to cut n my bp went to 24..bells n whistles went off.i scared them..thank god I got a good heart.i don’t remember any of that..thank god.get those check ups though please..u n Ray~~

    Reply

    • Susan,

      Don’t worry about the length of your post. I knew that you were a cancer survivor, but I didn’t know the details of the horrors that you’ve gone through.

      I hope you stay with us for a long time after all of that!

      And, I didn’t know about the pregnancy test and testicular cancer. You educated me today.

      Take care, my friend,

      AP

      Reply

  11. Posted by Connie Huizenga on September 26, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Anthony, I understand your concern. Although a family history indicates the possiblility, it does not promise the same outcome. Heart conditions can be inherited. Most cancers can not. You are absolutely doing the right thing by going for yearly check ups. I applaud you for using your voice to bring attention to that need and stating the reasons for yearly physicals. Keep on the good fight. You are eating good foods, exercising, and living life. That seems like a recipe for a happy life to me.

    Reply

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