Bryan Bailey is a cancer survivor from Worland, Wyoming. In 1999, when he was 22, Bryan was diagnosed with seminoma, which is a type of testicular cancer. He had recently moved from his hometown in Great Falls, Montana to attend school at the Proven Union University in Provo, Utah. He had an orchiectomy to remove one of his testicles and began radiation treatment for the next six months.
Bryan traveled between Provo and Salt Lake City for his weekly treatments. Despite coming out of radiation therapy feeling sick and incapacitated, Bryan stayed positive. Although he had to drop classes so that he could keep up with the cancer treatment, Bryan was able to get through college with the support from his roommates and professors.
Within a year of his diagnosis, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and his grandfather was diagnosed with colon cancer. Having gone through the process already, Bryan was able to use his experiences to help support his family.
Bryan has been cancer-free for 13 years now and lives in Worland with his wife and four children. He is currently a teacher at Worland Middle School and coaches basketball and football.
“I overcame the scare that is cancer”
Everybody hears the word “cancer” and they are immediately scared. They immediately think they are going to die. I didn’t have those feelings, but everyone around me had those feelings and those thoughts. I felt like I had to be the strong one and the one that had to hold everyone together during that time. We didn’t have any history of cancer in the family; I was the first member in my entire extended family to have any form of cancer. It brought my family together and raised awareness, especially through my family for testicular cancer.
We had our family members screened for the possibility of cancer. Shortly thereafter, my grandfather had colon cancer and my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, so all three of us had cancer within a year of each other. I’m not sure why, I’m not sure what the reasoning is, but that was the reality. I felt like having gone through the process myself, it was almost like I was getting everyone prepared to face their own challenge. It turned out to be a good thing for me. I think everybody thinks they are untouchable until it hits their family and then everyone is scared, so it was eye-opening to say the least.
I taught in Thermopolis, Wyoming as a high school teacher for six years. During that time, I’ve worked with a number of people that have had cancer as well. My good friend is also a testicular cancer survivor and he also teaches at the high school in Thermopolis. He’s done a wonderful job of raising money for cancer research and together we've raised awareness for a number of things. One of the good things about being a teacher is that you have the opportunity to impact the lives of many students. I just did a project with my sophomores last year called “Digital Stories” where we had a picture that would tell a story about something. My story was about how I got cancer and my fears of that cancer coming back and taking back everything I have by taking me away from my family, taking me away from job and what I have here. It was a powerful, powerful thing for me to do and powerful for my students to listen to, so they created their own stories about similar things. It turned into a story that has impacted a number of individuals; not just my family, but my students as well.
Finding a balance was a pretty difficult thing for me. I found that I had to put into perspective what I could and couldn’t do. Balancing when you have cancer is much like balancing in every aspect when you don’t have cancer. You have to find the priorities in life.
As a 21-year-old, I was still at that “nothing can break me down” mentality. I thought I was bigger than the world and bigger than life at the time. My personality was such that I didn’t really care and thought I was above it and that nothing could hit me. So cancer really brought a new perspective to my life and a new meaning--not so much because of the fear, but because of the reality that things can actually get to you.
Cancer really centers you and makes you think about what’s important. I’m probably closer to my religion, my family, and my friends in that I feel that they are more important to me now. Even though my cancer was at stage one, I never felt like I was really that close to death, but it was a possibility and cancer forces you to think of it as a possibility. My religion and my beliefs were all centered in my thoughts throughout the process. I thought about if I was living my life correctly or if I was living my life in the way I thought it was correct and it really brought all of that into perspective and centered that in my faith. It was a major component of how I live my life and it still is.
AnnMarie Cross Sidell, IL
Thelma Frerichs Blue Earth, Minnesota