To me, being a survivor means I was lucky enough to be diagnosed with cancer in this day and age. Because of this, I was given the opportunity to be part of drug research. When I was diagnosed the second time with bladder cancer, I was devastated. I had previously had my bladder and prostate removed, however the cancer came back in my liver at stage 4. The oncologist we saw at Stamford Hospital knew about a trial study going on at Yale and referred me to Dr. Daniel Petrylak. I was accepted into the research program, and given the opportunity to test a drug. In doing so, I could help myself and hopefully others. Through this, I also found that I had the strength to endure the unknown. When you are given six months to live you are frightened, angry, and just plain mad. You can’t help but ask yourself…WHY ME?! Then I thought of my wife, children, and grandchildren. How was this going to affect them?
My journey started July 15, 2015. I had some side effects: peripheral neuropathy, foot drop, weight loss, and mostly just being tired. It's been eight years and I am good. I am still here. I may not be able to go out on my boat to fish or play golf or go hunting. However, I get to wake up in the morning, spend time in my yard and garden and say, “Thank you, God.” Getting to watch my children prosper and my grandchildren grow up, and the birth of my first great grandson Bennett has been awesome! Without my family and wife, I don’t know if I could’ve gone through this alone.
I was given a second chance, and I try to show my family how much I love them and appreciate them. I have been blessed. I would tell anyone diagnosed with cancer to never give up hope. Ten years ago or even five years ago, I would not be here. Once you face cancer, you can deal with whatever comes your way.
Since being diagnosed with cancer, I have learned that it doesn't matter who you are, what you do or how much money you have. We are all equal in our chances of having cancer. First of all, I learned not to feel sorry for myself; it will only make you angry and depressed. You have to put your trust in the people that are caring for you. You have to surround yourself with good people.
I was fortunate to have a great research team. Dr. Daniel Petrylak led the way for us. Shelby, Kristen, and Lynn were my support. Whenever I had a question or a problem they were there to find an answer. My saving grace was a nurse in Phase I. Michelle- she was the first one I saw in the morning. Michelle administered my infusion and she knew just how to handle me. Michelle always had a smile and she always made me feel comfortable. It is very important to surround yourself with happy, uplifting people. I would be lying if I said I was always happy, or in a good mood because that was not the case sometimes. The minute I would see Michelle, I would smile and knew everything would be fine. Michelle was very compassionate and it showed with all her patients. I thank God for her every day.
Submitted by Emily Montemerlo on June 12, 2023