It started in October when I noticed a marble sized knot under my left jaw. The journey began that day.
My local physician, Dr. Scott Olson, decided I needed to have a CAT scan, which I did get at UT Health Quitman. After the scan was inconclusive, Dr. Olson sent me to see an ear, nose and throat specialist in Tyler, Dr. Michael Lewis. While there, Dr. Lewis ordered a biopsy of the knot. After five attempts, Dr. Lewis still was not happy with the results, so I was sent to UT Health Tyler for a core biopsy.
It was Nov. 22 when I returned to Tyler to get those results. The results came back indicating there was squamous cell cancer in the lymph node, and it was Stage 3. I promise you, hearing that I had a Stage 3 form of cancer got my attention. My family on both sides has a history of cancer and I have lost family and dear friends to various forms of the disease, including my own mother. I had no idea what Stage 3 or for that matter, what any stage of cancer meant.
Dr. Lewis made the decision to send me to specialist Dr. Lance Oxford at Baylor Hospital, Dallas. Dr. Oxford informed me he would have to go into my mouth to get the cancer in the lymph node and most likely would have to take some of my jaw bone. It was to be at least a five-hour surgery.
The outpouring of love, prayers and encouragement I received from family, friends, old classmates, former students and athletes, and my community was overwhelming. I even felt guilty for all the attention and positive energy I was receiving. There are many, many others suffering much more than me. I hope and pray others suffering from any form of cancer, Alzheimer’s or any other fatal diseases has others who are in their corner helping them battle each day. It sure has helped me get through the past few weeks.
Apparently, God is still in the listening business. My surgery lasted three hours, not five, and from the looks of everything now, my cancer has been subdued. All cancer is bad, but mine was minor league compared to what I have seen others have to battle on a daily basis. My doctors have been amazed at how well things have gone for me. I give credit to the divine and to the love and encouragement from all those who made me a part of their prayer list and to those sending constant words of love, and positive encouragement. My sweet wife, Lorna, and longtime best friends, Mike and Edna Smith, along with a host of others who were at the hospital and my colleagues Brandi Box and Zak Wellerman at the paper got me through my day of reckoning. There are so many others to thank and be thankful for.
We could all benefit from the caring of others. The staff at Baylor Hospital in Dallas was incredible, and I will never forget their kindness and understanding. Please understand, I know how blessed and fortunate I am.
I had plenty of time to meditate and contemplate my life’s next chapter. Right now, I know it’s not my last chapter, but there are things I know I need to do. I need to be more thankful for what I have, not what I don’t have. Others need to come first, not me. All the love, hope and positive energy I got from others needs to be turned to others in any possible way I can share.
As I have been finding out more about my relationship with cancer, I know I am very much ahead of the game at this point. But at the same time, this awful disease was taking the life of a wonderful, honorable and loving man. John Davidson married my cousin, Brenda Blackmon, in 1969, and they have been the absolute example of what a marriage should be for 49 years. They were married after John served our country in Vietnam as a United States Marine. John and Brenda had three beautiful daughters and six grandchildren who have loved their “Poppy” dearly.
I mostly saw John and Brenda at our Rose Hill Baptist Church Tucker Reunions each year. Through his battle with cancer, he never lost his smile or the love he showed for his wife and family. It was a constant reminder of what love and a lasting relationship is supposed to look like. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t see John without a smile on his face or hear a kind word in his conversation.
Like I said earlier, I lost my mom, Libby Stedry Tucker, to the disease in 2006, lifetime friend Terry Crocker in 2013 to throat cancer and this past spring, dear old friend Doug Groom to lung cancer.
There are a lot of things making not so positive headlines in today’s news, but my priorities have changed. I want to be on the frontline of this war so many before me have been fighting for years, some for themselves and those who fight for others. It’s time to get in the trenches and take action, not just talking.
What I have been through does not even scratch the surface in comparison to what Mom, Terry, Doug, John and someone you have loved has endured. I have been extremely fortunate.
It’s time we quit hating each other over politics and people’s beliefs just because we disagree. We are wasting money, time and resources on crap that just does not matter.
Every life matters today. Whether it is cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, addictions, or any other life-threatening disease, please take part in supporting others individually, or an activity which is about caring for others.
Many of you have been a part of fighting these battles for years. I have not been the active participant I should have been. Even if it’s becoming a volunteer at the local hospital or nursing home, or being a part of serving meals to the hungry and maybe running a 5K, just do something and do it today.
Pick up the phone, or better yet, make a trip just to tell someone you love them. It could make all the difference in the world to a person who simply needs to hear it.
May 2019 bring you many blessings. Happy New Year my friends.