Over 80 cancer survivors and caregivers attended the Cancer Survivors Celebration hosted by Phelps Memorial Health Center.
Stacey VanBoening, ARPN, Phelps Memorial Oncology, told those in attendance that her passion is helping her patients through their cancer journey.
Stacey said, “We have so many good days. We have a lot of hard days. And we are there together for all of them.” She added, “The one thing I am so proud of in my eight years at Phelps Memorial and my six years in oncology is that our team will treat you like family. Whether you are coming to oncology, radiology, admitted to the floor, coming in for surgery, or another reason… Every single member of our team is going to treat you like family.”
Stacey told the attendees that Cancer Partners of Nebraska provide cancer and hematology care and services at Phelps Memorial Oncology. Partnering physicians include Nathan Green, DO, Steven Dunder, MD, Haris Zahoor, MD, and Scott McHam, DO.
Mrs. VanBoening said today a patient told Dr. Dunder when discussing her options, “Treat me like I’m your mother and he replied, “I have been since the day I met you.”
She informed those in attendance of the many services offered in imaging so that “we can catch cancer early, prevent cancer, and if we find it, treat it.”
The guest speaker for the evening was Rich Watson, a 25-year cancer survivor from Holdrege.
Rich said, “Every one of us has a story. I have no idea why cancer takes the lives of some and not others. I’m truly grateful to be a survivor and for a second chance.”
Rich shared his cancer journey that included waking up in 1997 to go to work and his armpit was itchy and swollen. After a week of antibiotics, he went back to remove a possible fatty tumor to later find found out it was lymphoma.
“It was a scary thing hearing the word cancer and Hodgkin’s Disease,” he said. “I was very fortunate to have incredible support around me and my incredible wife, Lori, at every appointment with me.”
Rich underwent sixteen chemo treatments, one month of radiation, and in January 1998 was declared in remission. He remembers that on Easter Sunday he heard a song at church titled “Fear Is Not My Future.”
“That song had a line in it that said sickness is not my story.” He added, “I had gone to every follow-up session, blood work appointment, test, and scan frozen in fear with the what if’s. I tried not to let it bother me, but it always did. Around 2015, I finally realized that the worrying was not doing me any good.”
Rich shared that after being told he would never have children after his chemo treatments, he and Lori were shocked to find out that they were pregnant with their daughter Hannah in 2000. Hannah is their third child.
It was in 2007 that Rich was watching television and was introduced to Ironman competitions.
“That day I decided I was almost 10 years out of remission and knew I needed to make a change because I was kind of a mess physically. I decided I was going to do an Ironman,” he said.
“I began focussing on my goal. My motto was “LIVING” so I had shirts made, bracelets made, and even got a tattoo. I laid out my plan of how I was going to get to the Ironman. I started with several triathlons,” he said.
He said he trained a lot and it finally paid off. What he learned going from zero to Ironman was “small daily improvements lead to staggering long-term results.”
“Every time I doubted was this something God wants me to do, something would happen that said continue. It’s all God’s plan. It was about being dedicated to the process,” he said.
In 2017, Rich took a bucket list trip to New York and ran in New York City every morning and decided he wanted to run in the New York Marathon. In 2019, he applied for the lottery and was chosen. He ran in the New York Marathon, the world’s largest marathon. He now runs approximately 1200 miles a year. He’s got a new goal and that is running in the London Marathon.
Rich said, “I’m so thankful to be a survivor and I hope my story encourages someone. If I can do things like this, anyone can.”
Rich will also be speaking in Kearney at the Central Nebraska Relay for Life at Harmon Park. June 9, 2023. The full event will be held from 5:00pm-10:00pm at Harmon Park in Kearney. Those attending may come and go at the event. A dinner is served for all registered survivors. All are welcome to attend this event. Survivors may register for the event and also receive a free t-shirt and yard sign at www.relayforlife.org/centralnebraska.com or by calling 800-227-2345.