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MOBILE, Alabama -- (10/1/2018) If cancer comes knocking, hoping to take you out for a ride, don’t make the journey alone.
It’s the support of family, friends, church, healthcare professionals — even total strangers — that has kept Scott Chapman moving forward in his struggle with rectal cancer.
“When you’re fighting battles, you don’t fight alone. That’s impossible,” says Chapman, of Daphne. “Fellowship in time of need is critically important.”
His family — wife Michele and daughters Riley and Kerigan — have been the strong foundation for his courage, he says. He’s shared his story openly and been humbled by the support from friends, neighbors and co-workers — people who would drive his kids to school, or bring a meal or pray for him.
In a way, the whole journey got off to a better start because of friendship — his daughter Riley’s friendship with another teen who had lost her dad unexpectedly to colon cancer.
Chapman had some pain in the anal area, a bit of bleeding — but he’d been there before. Back when he was 18, he’d had the same symptoms and been diagnosed with an anal fissure. A few days of healing, and all was well. That’s what’s happening now, he told himself.
But at the funeral for Riley’s friend’s dad, Chapman promised himself he’d at least mention his problems to his family doctor. Like Chapman, the doctor wasn’t too worried, but did send him along to a gastroenterologist, who likewise said it was probably nothing, but suggested a colonoscopy.
The “probably nothing” response was gone when Chapman woke up. The doctor said he’d found a mass, a big mass, and it was almost undoubtedly cancer.
If Chapman was in a bad place waiting for the CT scan that would show whether the cancer had spread, Riley was in a worse place. So Chapman drove her to school, explaining to the office staff why she was late. Once Riley was off to class, the office staff asked whether they could pray for Chapman.
“They laid hands on me and prayed, and for first time I felt like I was at peace.”
The CT scan showed the best possible news; the cancer was still localized. He remembers the doctor’s comment: “You’ll die some day in the future, but you’re not going to die from this. You’ve got to fight, but I feel pretty good about the chances of this being cured.”
Moving from diagnosis to a clean bill of health is still a work in progress for Chapman.
His doctors recommended USA Mitchell Cancer Institute because his care would be supervised by a team of healthcare workers who could coordinate chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. That team approach is one of the real advantages MCI offers, says Dr. Clayton Smith, Chapman’s radiation oncologist. The team meets and reviews each patient, identifying ones like Chapman who are good candidates for a clinical trial, and offering a multi-faceted expertise to each patient’s care.
It’s scary, that first time you walk in, Chapman says. But it’s reassuring to be greeted by cheerful folks. And by the second time you visit, he says, they all know your name.
“Chemo sucks,” Chapman says. “You’re poisoning your body.” But you can get through it with the help of compassionate caregivers, he says, and that’s what he found at MCI.
Chemo was going as well as possible; he was all set to ring the bell after his eighth treatment, when he felt a burning sensation in his throat, worse than anything he’d experienced before. He closed his eyes, determined to tough it out and nap as usual. His wife and friend thought something was amiss and called for help, and instead of ringing the bell to signify graduation from chemo, Chapman left the building on a gurney headed for the emergency room.
The room fell silent, he noticed — a mystery until his wife, Michele, told him later that everyone, patients and staff alike, stopped what they were doing and prayed for him.
It turned out to be an allergic reaction, and he recuperated nicely and moved on to radiation treatments, all designed to shrink the tumor before surgery.
It was hard leaving MCI behind, he says. Through good and bad times, they’re your support system. In fact, he says, in all his visits, he never had a bad experience, “never a visit where even one staff member seemed to be having a bad day.”
He had his surgery in Florida, performed by a noted expert who’s also a family friend.
Chapman is confident that the same support network that’s brought him this far will carry him to full-fledged survivor. “Hope is experiencing the love, faith and prayers of my friends and family, new and old, throughout my treatment,” says Chapman.
Ask your physician for a referral to USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute or call 251-410-HOPE for an appointment.
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