Wes Kendall was interviewed by the 2010 Bike America Team in Portland, Oregon.
In his early 20’s, Wes went through a cycle of being ill with a cough for a week or so, and then he would feel better. This cycle kept repeating, and he began to lose weight. At first he attributed his weight loss to dietary changes, but he was constantly cold so his family urged him to see a doctor. His doctor’s visit revealed blood results that were off the charts. After a chest x-ray, a mass the size of a football was identified by his lungs. He was diagnosed with Stage 3B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. After a total of twelve months of treatment (chemotherapy and radiation), the cancer was gone. He is now a sixteen year cancer survivor.
I had a lot to live for at the time [of diagnosis]. My daughter was three years old at the time. I remember thinking to myself- ‘How many memories do I have from when I was three years old?’ I tried really hard, but I realized I didn’t have any memories at all. I realized that if I didn’t beat this, my daughter wouldn’t have any memories of me at all. That was a really hard thing.
A lot of people tell me I’m lucky. But I think that’s a shame that people have that mindset that if you survive cancer, you’re lucky. We need to change that perception. Let’s make it to where a cancer diagnosis isn’t such a dire thing. We need to help more people get better treatments, so that someday if someone says, ‘I had cancer but I don’t anymore,’ it’s going to be just as common as someone saying, ‘I broke my leg when I was a kid.’ One day I hope we see that in the future. Maybe not in my lifetime, but hopefully in my daughter’s.
In a way my cancer experience might have made me less ambitious because it made me appreciate the small things. I didn’t have to go out and get the ‘big things.’ I mean, just being here, look at how beautiful this is, look at this tree and feel this breeze… I really cherish every little nuance of life that sometimes maybe we take for granted. I have realized that there’s a joy and wonder in learning something for the first time. As we go on in life, our senses get dulled because we see the same things over and over again and that sense of wonderment is gone. In a way, I have been given the gift of being able to see something again for the first time.
Todd Dufault Carlston, Minnesota
Karen Hill Ambler Greencastle, IN