“I’m not fighting cancer. I suppose when you start fighting cancer that’s the time it wants to kill you, wants to take your life from you. Then the fight’s on. Me, I’m just being treated for cancer; I’m not fighting cancer.”
David Brooks was diagnosed with colon cancer five years ago when he was 51. On this morning he’s sitting upright in a recliner getting his bimonthly chemotherapy treatment in Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s oncology department.
“From 2004 until this morning (November 2009) I’ve been doing chemotherapy and CT scans,” Brooks said. “At first I did chemo at LMH four days a week and on two other days I carried a (chemotherapy) pump around with me … everywhere I went … slept with it, showered with it, worked with it, didn’t like it.”
But, he agreed, it kept him alive.
Not long after being diagnosed, Brooks had two surgeries. One was to remove a section of his cancerous colon and the other was a cryoablation, where metastasized cancer cells on his liver were eliminated through a freezing process.
“They were successful, colon first then the liver. The cancer got outside the colon and when it gets outside the colon and affects vital organs, that’s stage four,” he said.
Brooks has worked at the Lawrence Paper Co. for 28 years and is currently a security guard.
He is proud that during his many cancer procedures his only absence from work was the four weeks he spent at home in 2004 recovering from the two surgeries.
“I come in here every other Tuesday and do this (drug) Avastin,” he said, pointing to a bag hanging behind his shoulder. “It’s a 30-minute drip.”
“I’m dealing with side effects now with the other medication I’m currently taking, Sorafenib. That’s a tablet I take twice a day at home,” Brooks said.
“I came to the conclusion that as long as I work third shift (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.), am gainfully employed and am doing this current chemotherapy treatment, my trips out of town are over, I’m staying right here in Lawrence.”
Brooks leans forward in his chair, hands firmly planted on the seat cushion, looking pleasant but unsmiling.
“So yeah, I feel fine. I’ve felt fine for the last five years … the only way I know I’m a cancer patient is that I come to this hospital, that’s the only way I know.”
Bonnie, an oncology nurse, walks in and asks Brooks if he’s behaving himself.
Brooks says he’s forgotten to mention something.
“If you’re going to be a cancer patient, you want to come to Lawrence Memorial Hospital … been to others and, well, one in particular in Kansas City was an absolute nightmare.”
He said he was aware that cancer was serious business that might drag the staff down but he always tried to supply some humor in their lives.
He almost revealed a smile and said, “and I forgot to say how long-suffering they are, too.”
Brooks’ father died from a heart attack at age 64, causing him concern about the condition of his own heart.
“Well, while I was doing that, cancer just snuck up on me,” he said.
He said if he’d had a colonoscopy when he was 45 he thinks his colon cancer would have been just a polyp. “My surgeon told that to me.”
Brooks was ready to leave but the clear chemotherapy drug was still dripping into his body.
“So I’m a cancer patient,” he said. “I’ll look forward to continue being a cancer patient cause when I’m no longer a cancer patient means I’m no longer alive. Because there’s no cure for what I have because it’s stage four. It’s incurable. … It’s terminal, they say. …
“Wait awhile because cancer cells are still roaming around through your veins, going through your body until it finds a place to set up shop, a home that’s called a liver and lungs. Well, I’ve given it a little thought, and it’s not pleasant sitting around thinking about checking out. We’re all going to check out. That’s a given. I’ve already warmed up to that notion. Not going to live forever, but I’m thankful I’ve lived this long.”