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A Cancer Survivors Note of Thanks: National Cancer Survivor Day

The Rider

A Cancer Survivors Note of Thanks: National Cancer Survivor Day

“My name is Jay McDaniel and I am a cancer survivor, thanks to The James and Pelotonia, as well as a mortgage loan officer for Huntington and I support The Ohio State and James Huntington branch locations. I also was the concierge for several years at The James.

 I lost my father to colon cancer when I was 21. I never knew my grandfather, a sharecropper from Tennessee, who died of cancer before I was born. I remember my father telling me how he suffered painfully before he died. My father also lost his brother (my uncle Jerry) to colon cancer, and two of his sisters (Aunt Reba and Aunt Martha) to brain and colon cancer. Back in 1987 when my dad died at Loyola University, his oncologist recommended I get a colonoscopy every 5 years starting at age 30, which I did.

5 years ago this week I went to my family physician with some minor stomach issues. He recommended I get a colonoscopy. I was 4 years past the last one so cancer never crossed my mind, and I wasn’t too concerned. I remember seeing the large tumor on the screen during the procedure. He went around it and took pictures. I said, “that’s cancer isn’t it?” His reply? ”Yes.”

The next thing I knew, I was sitting with my best friend in my doctor’s office looking at pictures of the cancer and my Doctor explaining my diagnosis and informing me that it was stage 3B. I was speechless. My best friend grabbed a pad and paper and began to pepper him with question after question. She was an angel when I couldn’t function. I drove home in total shock, called my boss and explained my diagnosis. I broke down sobbing, asking who was going to take care of my 3 daughters I had been raising on my own since they were 3, 7, and 11. The next day I was advised that the senior management team at Huntington had reached out to CancerBridge, a program I feel very lucky to have access to as a Huntington employee.  I was fortunate enough that Dr. Richard Goldberg (former James physician-in-chief) and Dr. Mark Arnold (cancer surgeon) led my cancer treatment team. The day I was admitted, I was visited by the management team of Huntington, Dr. Caligiuri, and Dr. Mark Arnold. They had already put together an amazing plan to cut the cancer out and follow up with chemotherapy.

After recovery and in chemo I was contacted by Heather Hampel’s genetics team that heads up the Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative, an initiative funded by Pelotonia. They asked if they could test me for Lynch Syndrome, the most common form of inherited colorectal and uterine cancer.  After being tested, it was confirmed that indeed I had the genetic mutation for Lynch Syndrome.

Now, for the scariest part. Did I pass it down to any of my girls? Pelotonia funds to the rescue! All 3 of my daughters were tested for FREE. We learned that I had, in fact handed it down to one of my daughters, my oldest Erika. Now knowing she is at risk, she can get yearly testing.  Fortunately, this cancer is totally preventable if caught early, and knowing this now will certainly save her life.

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However, that was still not enough for the care team at the OSUCCC – James.  Heather Hampel drove eight hours one way to test my “at risk” family members at our annual family reunion in Tennessee while on her own family vacation. From these tests, we learned that my cousin Barry, who is the same age as me, tested positive. He went for a colonoscopy. They found polyps, removed them and saved his life!

I was cancer free until I noticed a pea sized lump on my belly button in early 2016. The assumption was a small hernia until it grew to the size of a golf ball. After a needle aspiration, it was confirmed my cancer was back. Now I was on a more aggressive chemo treatment plan to shrink the tumor. After several treatments, with no response, my tumor grew to an inoperable size. I was still working and was at the Ohio State Doan Hall Huntington branch one day. I noticed my surgeon Dr. Arnold was sitting in his usual spot, on a bench taking a break outside my office. As I have done many times, I walked out to say hello and shake his hand. He noticed the tumor on my stomach through my shirt and said calmly as always “my office –  tomorrow that is coming out”. I told him “does Rich (my oncologist, we are all now on a first name basis at this point) know about this? He replied, “he will”. He then assembled a small army including Dr. Janis (plastic surgeon) to facilitate surgery. They removed the tumor, along with my spleen, adrenal gland, and a half dozen lymph nodes, and even got a tummy tuck later (Thanks Dr. J!) I made it! I survived!

Thank you to an incredible group of Doctors, the staff at The James, family, and friends for helping me get here, today!

Thank you Huntington for having the CancerBridge Program.

Special thanks to Pelotonia and Heather Hampel for the clinical trials that are saving lives today!! Pelotonia saved my life, my daughter Erika, and my cousin Barry.  38 family members also know that they do not carry the Lynch gene thanks to Heather Hampel driving to Tennessee on her vacation to test my relatives at our family reunion!

Thank you Pelotonia community. You have saved my life.”