Battling cancer has changed my life. It's safe to say that I would not be the person I am today without undergoing this beast. There isn't a day that goes by that I do not think about cancer and how fortunate I am to still be here. Today, I am driven by the strength I had to fight and survive cancer 5 times and provide inspiration for all those fighting now. Inspired from my own intense journey and other cancer warriors, I am continuing to fight the good fight.
However, being a multiple cancer survivor isn't always as glamorous as it may seem from an outside perspective. There are long-term side effects from the harsh surgeries, medications and therapies I have recieved through the years, and they keep creeping up on me as I age. I can never stop worrying that any one of my cancers may come back or that the side effects will make me different than my peers. Heart defects, Alzheimer's Disease, Neuropathy Pain, Lupus Disease, and Joint Deterioration are what I will be dealing with til I go to be with the Lord.
If there was one thing I would say to another cancer patient and their family, it would be my favorite quote from Winnie the Pooh. "There is something you must always remember: you are braver than you believe, smarter than you think and stronger than you seem." Only the bravest of Warriors were given this battle. The following is my story, Andrew Kuzyk, 5 Time Cancer Survivor.
GEORGIA FATHER SURVIVES DEADLY CANCER FIVE TIMES...NOW BATTLES LUPUS & ALZHEIMER'S DISEASES
My doctors told me in 2012, that "I was the only male, five-time cancer survivor in the Western Hemisphere" Surviving cancer once, twice, maybe three times may be rare, but five times is simply unheard of. What is in a human being to survive is beyond explainable. We have all heard about survival instinct, but until you are put into a survival situation you have no idea what you are really capable of. I am told I am truly a remarkable fighter as I have beaten cancer FIVE times, also suffering from Lupus and Alzheimer's, I have beaten any and all expectations to reach my 53rd birthday! I am still fighting despite enduring a multitude of cancer operations, including two my surgeons thought I would not even survive. I have every wicked surgery scar to remind me of my multiple battles with different types of cancer.
I am a father & grandfather from McDonough, Georgia who has fought through so many medical issues it is mind boggling. My health issues began when I was diagnosed with an acute cancerous appendix at the ripe age of 17, I required emergency surgery just before the organ would have ruptured, causing fatal infection to my body. Appendix cancer tends to be rare, affecting an estimated 600 to 1,000 Americans each year. Unfortunately, appendix cancer often remains undiagnosed, like mine was, until my emergency surgery. Appendix cancer mysteriously has no known cause. At the time I had no idea I would tangle with cancer yet again soon. I had always been a physically active person. A few months after the bout with appendix cancer, I had several episodes of pain in the upper right quadrant of my abdomen. I thought I may have gallstones and decided to avoid high-fat foods because a high fat diet increases gallstone risk.
Later that year, however, I started having steady nausea that became constant. I was also having some coronary artery issues and had was scheduled to have several stents surgically inserted. It was in the recovery room after the cardiac stent procedures when I felt unbearable pain in my midsection. My doctor ordered an abdominal ultrasound, which showed irregular thickening of my gallbladder walls. They couldn't rule out carsinoma, but a surgical specialist reassured me that "cancer was highly unlikely". "He had done thousands of gallbladder surgeries and rarely saw gallbladder cancer. He said, "It was very rare, and if that were the case, you would probably be dead by now". My surgeon removed my enlarged gallbladder laparoscopically, but the news wasn't good. Unfortunately, the pathology came back showing T2 gallbladder cancer. I fought the disease by having my cancerous bladder removed before the cancer could invade my entire system. "The statistics for gallbladder cancer are not very reassuring. I went into surgery hoping to live two years." My wife and five chihuahuas have been very supportive during my treatment. "My wife was a blessing to me, always making sure I stayed positive and being so supportive"
Two years later, I went to a dermatologist to have a mole examined. I have also been blessed with a condition called "displastic nevi syndrome" meaning I have a much higher potential for skin cancers than others. My moles are darker than average and can tend to turn into the deadly malignant melanoma. Two shave biopsies were performed on my moles and pathology tests showed very deep Breslow depths with tumors present in deep margins as well as peripheral. An oncology team referred me to a general surgeon after reviewing my poor prognosis. With deadly stage 4 malignant melanoma, a wide excision surgery was the only radical treatment known to attack and remove the cancer. It is a miracle in itself to survive a stage 4 cancer attack. The cancer left my back looking like a cruel battleground of scars. The surgeon cut as deep as possible, but still did not know if he got it all. I would have to be examined for the rest of my life for the possible return of the deadly malignant melanoma cancer.
"The toughest one was the renal cell carsinoma (kidney cancer) surgery. Having a kidney removed was the most difficult of any of the cancer surgeries." Only one year previous, I was forced to have my left leg surgically sawed in half and almost amputated because of infection, to remove a malignant bone tumor lodged in the center of my leg bone. The recovery period for these two surgeries was intense and lengthy. My body looks like a battlefield with scars everywhere. A major skin graft was taken from My upper thigh tissue to cover the wide excision scars on my back. Somehow I fought through these cancer surgeries through prayer and perseverance. "After one operation, I opened my eyes and the surgeon actually told me the operation was over, but wasn't certain if I would pull through, due to serious infection concerns. My multiple cancer diagnoses don't appear to be based on genetics, just dumb luck.
Two years after the grim Stage 4 diagnosis, I confessed to a close friend that the doctors had said I realistically only had two years to live, tops. I had kept this information to myself because if I were to say it, then it's true. I now continues to hold my breath, now that It is past that deadline. I have spent the last couple years holding my breath, as I pray every New Year's resolution, past and future. There's a small subcategory of people with Stage 4 cancer, it turns out, who live for years after being diagnosed. This group constitutes about 2 percent of all cancer cases. Doctors can't predict who will fall into this category.
I told them "I'm a fighter". Somehow I have managed to fend off the infection and slowly recovered. I pulled through because of my fighting spirit, belief in God and the skill of the surgeons who performed the procedures to remove the deadly cancer. That being said, I now fight a myriad of daily health issues including Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, lupus, heart disease, peripheral neuropathy, and needing both knees surgically replaced. I now live with his wife and five chihuahuas in a small camper, barely hanging on to survive these days fighting Alzheimer's & lupus diseases, both devastating in their own ways.
"I've had it tough with the cancer and other ailments I guess" I cannot really do much at all these days. I consider myself a "frequent flyer" being operated on now for 5 bouts with different cancers. "how many people can say that?" I try to not to let my physical and mental conditions run my life, but it takes everything that is within me to get through another painful day. If you want to help a friend diagnosed with cancer, just be there. Friends can't make the fact that you have cancer go away. They can't make it all better. They can, however, help you feel safer.
"When your scared, it's
important to know that someone is there".